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- The Protection from Harassment Act (2014), or POHA, makes provisions to protect victims from being subjected to further harassment, threats, insults, or abuse by perpetrators.
- The primary method to protect such victims of harassment is through the deployment of the Protection Order (PO).
- The Protection Order (PO) is able to prohibit and prevent your harasser from continuing to subject you to further harassment.
What is a Protection Order (PO)?
Under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA), it is unlawful to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour or make any threatening, abusive or insulting communication to another such that it causes, or is perceived by any person likely to be caused, harassment, alarm or distress. The POHA also covers situations such as causing fear, provocation of violence or unlawful stalking.
To that end, the Protection Order is designed to protect victims from being subject to further abuse, harassment or other types of anti-social behavior as it prohibits the harasser from continuing to exhibit the above behaviour. If the harasser breaches the Protection Order, it will be considered a criminal offence, and they may face penalties ranging from being fined up to SGD$5,000 to imprisonment for a maximum of 6 months, or both.
However, the Protection Order does not last forever and will usually be granted for a specified duration of time only. The Court may also grant such conditions or exceptions as it thinks fit, and the Protection Order can also be subsequently varied, suspended, or cancelled upon application by the victim or any person to whom the order applies.
What can the Protection Order do for me?
Depending on the circumstances of the harassment you have suffered, you can request for the Protection Order to:
- Prohibit your harasser from doing any action or thing related to the victim (and in certain circumstances, other related persons);
- Prevent the perpetrator from publishing, or continuing to publish an offending communication;
- Refer your harasser, yourself, or both of you, to attend counselling or mediation;
- Arrange for all necessary actions to ensure that any (or all) of the other three actions listed above can be properly carried out.
What does a Protection Order protect you from?
Apart from the provisions protecting public servants from harassment, there are four types of criminal offences that a Protection Order can generally protect victims from:
|S/N||Nature of Criminal Offence||Relevant Laws Addressing the Offence||Examples|
|1||Intentionally causing harassment, alarm of distress|
(i.e. Causing the victim to feel harassed, alarmed, or distressed after being intentionally subjected to threatening, abusive or insulting words, behaviour or any other form of communication.)
|Protection from Harassment Act (Chapter 256A) – Section 3||(a) X and Y are co‑workers. At the workplace, X loudly and graphically describes to the other co‑workers X’s desire for a sexual relationship with Y in an insulting manner. X knows that Y is within earshot and intends to cause Y distress. Y is distressed. X is guilty of an offence under this section.
(b) X writes a letter containing threatening words towards Y intending to send the letter to Y to cause him alarm. X decides not to send the letter and throws it away. Y finds the letter and is alarmed. X is not guilty of an offence under this section as he had no reason to believe that the letter would be seen by Y.
|2||Harassment, alarm or distress |
(i.e. Using threatening, abusive or insulting words, behaviour, or any other form of communication, such that it is perceived by any person likely to be caused feelings of harassment, alarm, or distress by the victim.)
|Protection from Harassment Act (Chapter 256A) – Section 4||X and Y are classmates. X posts a vulgar tirade against Y on a website accessible to all of their classmates. One of Y’s classmates shows the message on the website to Y, and Y is distressed. X is guilty of an offence under this section.|
|3||Fear or provocation of violence|
(i.e. Intentionally causing the victim to believe that unlawful violence will be used against the victim or any other person; or to provoke the use of unlawful violence by the victim or another person against other people.)
|Protection from Harassment Act (Chapter 256A) – Section 5||(a) X and Y argue. X picks up a sharp object and brandishes it threateningly at Y, causing Y to fear for his safety. X is guilty of an offence under this section.
(b) X provokes Y by taunting Y and making offensive and insulting comments about Y within earshot of Y. Y reacts violently. X is still guilty of an offence under this section.
(i.e. Knowingly, or intentionally engaging in conduct, surveillance, and/or communication that causes the victim to experience feelings of harassment, alarm, or distress.)
|Protection from Harassment Act (Chapter 256A) – Section 7||In this scenario, Person X is stalking Person Y:
(a) X repeatedly sends texts to Y with sexually suggestive comments.
(b) X sends flowers to Y daily even though Y has asked X to stop doing so.
(c) X repeatedly circulates revealing photographs of a classmate (Y) to other classmates.
(d) X secretly plants a hidden camera in Y’s apartment. Unknown to Y, the camera continuously transmits live videos of Y in Y’s apartment, and X watches the videos continually over several days.
(e) X follows Y home and waits outside Y’s home even though Y has told X to leave.
How will the Court decide to grant a Protection Order?
In order to be granted a PO, you would need to prove to the District Court that:
- Your harasser has committed an offense as listed in Sections 3, 4, 5, or 7 of the POHA against you; and
- That the harasser is either likely to continue committing the above offense against you, or that the perpetrator is likely to commit a contravention of section 3, 4, 5 or 7 of the POHA against you.
What other Orders can a Court make?
Where necessary, the Court may make an Expedited Protection Order (“EO”), a temporary order which can take effect even without notice of the EO having been served on the harasser. However, this is usually limited to cases where the need is particularly urgent and is only intended to cover the duration between the application for the Protection Order and the Court hearing for the Protection Order.
Where a false statement of fact has been published, the Court may make a Non-Publication Order (“NPO”), under which the harasser is ordered not to publish or to stop publishing the offending statement unless a notification on the falsehood of the offending statement is also published. Like the Protection Order, an NPO may also be varied, cancelled or suspended.
Have a question on the Protection Order?
If you have any question about the Protection Order, you can get a Quick Consult for a transparent, flat fee of S$49. You can expect a call back within 1-2 days on the phone to get legal advice and have your questions answered. Alternatively, you may wish to request a quote from Joyslyn.
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.
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