Harassment takes place when there is a multitude of incidents

The Police V Tristan Tedesco - he was charged with having escaped from police custody, amongst several other charges

Magistrate’s Court held that it is not sufficient for harassment to stick if there is only one incident, there must be more than one. This was held in a court judgement, the Police -v- Tristan Tedesco, handed down by Magistrate Donatella Frendo Dimech on 8 August, 2017. 

Tedesco was charged with having escaped from police custody, damaging his father’s property, causing fear of violence towards his mother, threatening people on the phone and harassment. 

Tedesco admitted to all the charges brought against him, however, the Court could not accept the guilty plea with respect to the charge of causing others to fear violence against them as contemplated in Article 251B of the Criminal Code and this was because there is no evidence that there existed a course of conduct. Magistrate Frendo Dimech quoted from the Police -v- Joseph Bajada decided on 2 May, 2013, which held that the offence of harassment was introduced in 2005 and the law contemplates a course of conduct and not one single incident. 

The Court also quoted from Black’s Law Dictionary which defines harassment as “words, conduct or action (repeated and persistent) that being directed at a specific person annoys, alarms or causes substantial emotional distress in that person and serves no legitimate purpose”. This course of conduct must result from the evidence produced. Article 251C gives an interpretation of Article 251B and states that harassment includes alarming the person or causing the person distress. Notwithstanding this the law lacks a definition of harassment, but the court can still judge whether an action is one of harassment or otherwise. 

In another previous judgement the Police -v- Francis Xavier Micallef, the Magistrates Court pointed out that the law mentions conduct, which is equal to the British notion of course of conduct. A single incident cannot amount to harassment. The article in the Criminal Code has been inspired by Article 4(1) of the Protection from Harassment Act, 1997 in the UK which states “A person whose course of conduct causes another to fear on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against him is guilty of an offence if he knows or ought to know that his course of conduct will cause the other so to fear on each of those occasions.”

The court then considered other charges Tedesco was accused of, one of which was that he breached a probation order delivered on 16 February, 2017. For this another magistrate dealt with the breach following a report filed by the probation officer. 

With regard to the punishment to be awarded the Court took into consideration that the accused had admitted to the charges, and also his worrying criminal record. According to the pre-sentencing report, the accused lives a turbulent life, but also suffers from a medical behavioural condition. His parents pressing for the proceedings was for the courts to order his care. The Court sentenced the accused to three years in prison and ordered that he receives care.

 

Dr Malcolm Mifsud, Partner, Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates

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