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Protection from Harassment Act “POHA” – Protecting yourself against Unwanted Harassment

5 min read

As reported in Straits Times, Lawyers handling more stalking & harassment cases in Singapore. Head lawyer Gloria James of law firm Gloria James-Civetta & Co said the firm has handled about 10 such cases as of last month, compared with 14 in total last year and eight in 2019.

Lawyers said the increase is taking place in tandem with the rise of social media and digital platforms and follows the introduction of the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA) in 2014.

While the offence of intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress carries a fine of up to $5,000 or a Jail term of up to six months or both, unlawful stalking has double the maximum jail term. Those found guilty can be fined up to $5,000, jailed for up to 12 months or both.

Overview
  1. Background
  2. Scope
  3. Harassment
  4. Remedies
  5. Comparisons between a Personal Protection Order (“PPO”) and a Protection Order (“PO”)
  6. FAQ
Background
  • POHA came into force in 2014
  • Sections to take note of:
    • s 3 : intentionally causing harassment, alarm or distress
    • s 4 : harassment, alarm or distress
    • s 5 : fear, provocation or facilitation of violence
    • s 6 : offences toward public servants
    • s 7 : unlawful stalking
    • s 12 : protection order
    • s 13 : expedited protection order
  • The POHA prevents behaviour or communication that are threatening, abusive or insulting
  • The POHA seeks to protect and offer remedies to individuals who have suffered from harassment, alarm or distress
  • It also criminalizes doxxing, unlawful stalking and acts which may cause individuals to fear that unlawful violence would be carried out against them or any other person
  • While perpetrators who commit these harassing acts may be prosecuted by the State, there is also an option for victims to apply for and obtain a Protection Order (“PO”) against perpetrators
  • They may also pursue civil damages for losses suffered
  • As of 1 June 2021, the POHA has been amended to offer more protection to the layperson by simplifying the means to obtain a PO
Scope
  • The broad scope of prohibited acts covered under the POHA allows victims of varying harassing acts to seek relief
  • Everyday examples:
    • Workplace harassment
    • Online bullying
    • Unauthorized spread of private information
    • Stalking
    • Doxxing
  • Importantly, the POHA has effectively covered a non liquet
  • In other words, situations where there may have been no applicable laws previously
Harassment

What constitutes an act of harassment?

  • Intentionally harassing, alarming or causing distress to another party
  • Behaving in ways that are likely to cause alarm or distress to another party, even when there is no intention to do so
  • Instilling fear through provocation or facilitation of violence
  • Insulting or behaving in an indecent, abusive or threatening manner towards public officials or public service workers
  • Unlawful stalking
  • Doxxing
Remedies
  • Victims of harassing acts may seek civil remedies or criminal sanctions through the POHA
  • There are various ways to seek legal recourse:
    • Send a letter of demand
    • Lodge a police report
    • File a Magistrate’s Complaint
    • Apply for a PO
    • Orders against false statements
REMEDIES: Letter of Demand
  • a cease & desist letter
  • demanding steps to be taken
  • immediate attention
Examples of some demands
  • apology
  • take down (of public postings)
  • destruction (of sensitive materials)
REMEDIES: Police Report

Lodging a Police Report

  • this may be filed online or at a neighbourhood police post
  • state details of harassing incident
  • provide parties’ particulars
Point to note
  • police will contact victim to get more information
  • police will contact accused person
  • police takes action
REMEDIES: Magistrate’s Complaint

Magistrate’s Complaint

  • this may be filed in cases where a police report has been lodged but the police are unable to take action, or when one does not know the identity of the accused person
  • the magistrate may make orders for a police investigation to be commenced if they are satisfied of the merits of the case
  • the magistrate may also make an order for mediation
REMEDIES: Protection Order

Apply for PO

  • Simplified process or Standard process
  • Option for legal representation
  • Court-led approach
  • Outcome of the matter
    • by-consent order
    • settlement
    • mediation
    • hearing
Simplified Tracks for Harassment Cases

Eligible for Applications that:

  • Involve only one Claimant and no more than five respondents
  • Are brought within two years from the date when the cause of action arose
  • Do not include a claim for damages exceeding $20,000

POHA flowchart

REMEDIES: Expedited Protection Order

Apply for EPO

  • Temporary relief
  • Harassing acts is likely to be carried out imminently
  • Harassing acts is likely to have a substantial adverse effect on the victim or the victim’s day to day activities
REMEDIES: Orders against false statements
  • Other orders the Court can give against false statements
    • Stop Publication order
    • Correction Order
    • Disabling Order
    • Targeted/General Correction Order
Comparisons between a Personal Protection Order (“PPO”) & a Protection Order (“PO”)
PPO v PO
Personal Protection Order under the Women’s Charter (“PPO”) Protection Order under POHA (“PO”) or Expedited Protection Order under POHA (“EPO”)
Family violence has been committed or is likely to be committed against a family member
  • Acts that cause harassment, alarm or distress
  • Acts that cause fear, provocation or facilitation of violence
  • Acts that involve indecent, threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or communication
  • Unlawful stalking
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Protection from Harassment

The state prosecution has the discretion to decide whether to pursue a matter in court. This depends on, amongst other factors, the severity of the matter and whether there is a public interest involved.

In order to prevent such situations, please refer to the next slide for some general guidelines on what to do and what not to do.

doxxing
Parting Words

Lawmakers are continually shaping and improving the laws to better protect citizens.
Once women are better informed, they can avoid living in fear of cyber-bullying, extortion, sexual harassment, workplace harassment, and/or unlawful stalking.

What can we do for you?

Should you have any questions or would like more information, please contact our criminal representation lawyers at 6337 0469 or email us at consult@gjclaw.com.sg

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