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The crime of harassment: conduct, consequences and how to report

The crime of harassment: conduct, consequences and how to report

We call the crime of harassment the repeated and unauthorized harassment that leads the victim to seriously alter the development of their daily life. The behaviors that give rise to this crime, recognized during the reform of the Penal Code in 2015, are different. 

We also know this crime as “stalking”, imported Anglicism due to its increasing incidence in the digital environment. 

Victims of bullying should take action against their bullies. Measures that begin by consulting with an experienced criminal lawyer when you are a victim of harassment and filing a complaint with the authorities.

Let's also not forget that harassment can (and often does) lead to other related crimes. Crimes against privacy, mainly. So, a comprehensive and forceful response should be deployed when taking action.

What is the crime of harassment?

As defined in art. 173 ter of the Penal Code, the radical issue of the crime of harassment is that it must involve harassment:

1.- Insistent and repeated. In other words, isolated acts would not suffice.

2.- Not legitimately authorized. This protects, for example, private security professionals and even the Security Forces and Corps.

3.- That seriously alters the development of the victim's daily life. That is, if the victim has not even noticed the behavior of the aggressor, it is most likely that we are facing another type of crime (or even that there is no crime). In the same way, for the action to be criminally relevant, mere annoyance is not enough.

These are the requirements to contemplate a crime of harassment (worth, for others, the Judgment of the Supreme Court of July 12, 2017).

What behaviors constitute the crime of harassment?

As our criminal lawyers at Forcam Abogados comment, the Criminal Code sets out a series of behaviors that, provided that the aforementioned requirements are met, will constitute a crime of harassment. Such actions are:

1.- Surveillance, persecution or search for physical proximity. Note that if the search for proximity is accompanied by a restraining order (a relatively frequent case), a crime of violation of the sentence could also be committed.

2.- The establishment or attempt to establish contact through any means of communication or through third parties.

3.- The acquisition of products or merchandise or the contracting of services through the improper use of your personal data.

4.- The attack against the freedom or property of the victim or people close to her. And here are the two legal assets protected mainly by this criminal type. 

What is the difference between bullying and coercion?

There is some confusion about whether a situation constitutes harassment or coercion. But, as the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling reminds us, the harasser does not use violence to restrict the freedom of the victim.

As much as his actions are enough to disturb her and cause criminally relevant uneasiness, the stalker or perpetrator of the crime does not compel his victims to do something they do not want or prevent him from doing what they want.

It is, therefore, a conduct that we can understand as less aggressive (at least from the point of view of the victim's freedom), but that does not mean that it is worthless of a criminal conviction.

What are the consequences of committing this crime? 

The general penalty for those who commit a crime of harassment is imprisonment from three months to two years or a fine from six to 24 months. However, we must understand that there are different aggravated assumptions:

1.- In the first place, when the victim is especially vulnerable due to their age, illness or situation.

2.- Secondly, when the harassment occurs in the domestic sphere

It should be noted that, as we have indicated previously, the crime of harassment can concur with other crimes.

Should I report the crime of harassment?

As a general rule, harassment can only be prosecuted after a complaint by the aggrieved person or his legal representative. The only exception is one in which the crime occurs in the domestic sphere.

We refer by domestic sphere to which it affects:

1.- The spouse or person linked by a similar emotional relationship, even without coexistence.

2.- The descendants, ascendants or siblings of the previous one or the minors or people with disabilities in need of special protection who live with him.

3.- People covered by other relationships that integrate them into the nucleus of family coexistence.

In any case, and as we have advanced in our introduction, it is advisable to inform a criminal lawyer and the authorities of this type of conduct. In this way, actions can be taken against the aggressor, preventing him from persisting in his harassment.

Contact us, 
and our lawyers specializing in criminal law will study your specific case. 

At Forcam Abogados we have offices in Barcelona, Tarragona, Reus and Tarrega.