We are seeing more and more allegations of harassment being made in relation to contact by Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms, but what is harassment via social media so far as the law is concerned?
An interesting case recently decided in the High Court, involving Manchester United football player, Aaron Wan-Bissaka, provides some clarity on what a Court will have in mind when dealing with a harassment case. It concerned the behaviour of Mr Wan-Bissaka’s ex-partner who had posted on Instagram private messages between the two. She had also posted news about his new girlfriend being pregnant, which the couple had not wanted to make public.
The Court had to decide whether an interim injunction should be granted to stop the conduct that was complained of.
The Court decided that the actions of the ex-partner did not amount to harassment as it was not “unacceptable or oppressive behaviour, or capable of sustaining criminal liability under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 s.1”. Although, it was accepted that the actions may have been distressing.
It is all to easy to claim that another person’s use of social media amounts to harassment. This case demonstrates that the Courts will only find harassment where there is evidence of oppressive behaviour. Although this was a civil case, the Court’s view on harassment will undoubtedly be used also in the criminal courts.
Mr Wan-Bissaka did get his injunction but it was only on the grounds that he had a right to private family life which outweighed the ex-partners right to freedom of expression.