What is the crime of harassment?

What is the crime of harassment?
Published on: 17 June 2024

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In recent years and nowadays, with the advent of technology, mobile phones, social networks, etc., there have been more and more cases of harassment, and it is for this reason that in the latest criminal reforms a section on coercion has been introduced in Article 6 of the Penal Code.

The offence of harassment can be confused with sexual harassment, which is a completely different offence that mixes harassment with sexual offences. Therefore, if you are being harassed, whatever the circumstances, you should contact a criminal lawyer as soon as possible to provide you with a mechanism to protect you legally.

What is the crime of harassment?

The crime of harassment, also known as stalking, refers to persistent and repeated acts of harassment of a person without legal authorisation, altering his or her daily life. This offence was introduced through the reform of the criminal law in 2015.

For this action to be considered harassment, physical and psychological coercion must be used habitually, causing harm to the victim.

Harassment offences always require a complaint from the victim. However, the exception is when the victim is the affective partner, sibling, parent or child of the harasser, in which case the prosecution will prosecute ex officio by the public prosecutor's office without a prior complaint from the victim.

Should I report harassment?

As a general rule, harassment can only be prosecuted upon complaint by the victim or his or her legal representative. The only exception is when the offence takes place in the domestic sphere. In this case we are referring to the spouse or persons who are united by an analogous affective relationship, even if they do not live together, the descendants, elders or siblings of the predecessors or minors who live with them or persons with disabilities who require special protection, or also persons who are covered by other relationships that integrate them into the nucleus of the family cohabitation.

In any case, it is advisable to report any offence of harassment to a criminal lawyer and it is also advisable to report such behaviour to the authorities. In this way, measures can be taken against the aggressor, preventing further harassment.

What sanctions would be applied?

The penalties that would apply are a prison term of 3 months to 2 years or a fine of 6 to 24 months. In this way, victims of any of these behaviours become insecure and change their daily habits as their freedom of movement is limited by the harassment. It is not only a nuisance, but a fear that it engenders among those affected.

What is considered harassment?

Sometimes we confuse the crime of harassment with other acts that do not fall into this category, which is why the Penal Code lists all the acts that involve a victim of harassment, always bearing in mind that they must be carried out regularly, repeatedly and regularly. Persistent behaviour:

  • Spying on, pursuing or seeking physical proximity to the victim.
  • The perpetrator will attempt to establish contact through any means of communication or, where appropriate, a third party.
  • Misuse of personal data to obtain products or contract services, or to provide personal data to third parties so that they can contact victims.
  • In general, attempts against the freedom or property of the victim or someone close to the victim.

The main aggravating circumstance of the offence of stalking is that the victim is one of the persons referred to in Article 173.2, the spouse, descendants, elders, siblings, minors and incapable persons who live with the perpetrator.

Characteristics of the offence of harassment

The offence of harassment applies as an autonomous offence without prejudice to offences that may be committed during the execution of the offence of harassment, in which case genuine criminal jurisdiction applies. On the other hand, it should be borne in mind that harassment is a semi-public offence that requires a complaint from the affected person and cannot be initiated ex officio without a complaint.

Complaints can be lodged at any police station or civilian police station. You have to remember that evidence of a case will make it easier to prove a crime if you have as evidence screenshots of conversations, call logs, witnesses, among others.

What is the difference between harassment and coercion?

There is some confusion as to whether a situation constitutes harassment or coercion. Coercion seeks to force a person to do something they do not want to do. However, harassment does not have a clear objective, but what characterises it is the annoyance or even the harm it causes to the victim, as it can seriously affect the development of his or her daily life.

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