In the case of Malcomson Nicholas Hugh Bertram & Anor v Mehta Naresh Kumar  4 SLR 454, the Court observed that Singapore was one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and opined that “it will make for an intensely uncomfortable living environment if there is no recourse against a person who intentionally makes use of modern communication devices in a manner that causes offence, fear, distress and annoyance to another”.
To that end, the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 (“POHA”) plays an important role in legislating and setting out certain acts that constitute harassment, and the appropriate remedies against persons committing such acts.
This article sets out a brief overview of what constitutes harassment, and the possible remedies you may obtain against any such harassing conduct or behaviour.
Under the Protection from Harassment Act 2014 (“POHA”), there are several categories of acts that constitute, broadly, “harassment” and some of the more common ones include:
The above are captured in the respective sections of the POHA below:
As should be noted for the broad categories of harassment above, what amounts to causing “harassment, alarm or distress” can differ from person to person, and so there is an objective qualifier as to whether a person or victim would “likely” to be caused said “harassment, alarm or distress”.
Another point to note is that under section 4 of the POHA, there is no requirement that one needs to intend to cause harassment, alarm or distress (unlike section 3 of the POHA), and so one can still commit an offence under the POHA unintentionally.
The Protection from Harassment Court (“PHC”), which is a Court set up in Singapore on 1 June 2021, was established to hear all criminal and civil matters under the POHA. The PHC uses a simplified and streamlined filing process that allows victims of harassment to more easily obtain relief under POHA.
If you have been the victim of any of the above acts of harassment, there are three main remedies that you can seek from the PHC:
What is a Protection Order?
A Protection Order (“PO”) is a Court order that is made against a perpetrator of any acts of harassment under the POHA, for which the Court has ordered any or all of the following:
Note that only a victim of harassment can apply for a PO themselves. A person who is not a victim is not able to apply for a PO on behalf of a victim.
For a PO to be granted, there are three requirements that must be met. These requirements are set out in Section 12(2) POHA:
In determining what is just and equitable for the Court to grant a PO under the last criterion above, the Court will consider factors including, but not limited to:
The duration of the PO may vary, however the protection will remain in force for the entire duration. If the perpetrator breaches the conditions in the PO while it is in force, they are guilty of an offence under Section 10 POHA and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or to both. For repeat offenders, this increases to $10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or both.
Expedited Protection Orders (“EPOs”)
Typically, once a PO application is filed, it may take at least 4 weeks before the application is processed. On the other hand, if a PO is required urgently, a victim of harassment can instead apply for an EPO in addition to the application for a PO.
An EPO may be obtained if, in addition to the requirements for a PO, the Court is satisfied that:
There are a few key differences between a PO and an EPO:
Challenging a PO application
If you are served a PO application, and wish to contest the application, you will have to prepare and file an “Affidavit in reply for protection order – Protection from harassment”, which is accessible on the Courts’ website at https://www.judiciary.gov.sg/forms/forms-details/affidavit-in-reply-protection-order-protection-from-harassment. This form will set out your reasons as to why a PO should not be ordered against you. You may include documentary and/or other evidence to support your response.
After you have filed your response, you and the alleged victim will have to attend a case conference before a judge. Among other matters, the judge may direct that parties attempt alternative dispute resolution options such as mediation or counselling, or if no amicable resolution can be reached, direct that the case be fixed for a hearing.
Prior to the hearing, you should bring along any witnesses and evidence to refute the allegation that you had harassed the alleged victim. Depending on the evidence put forward, the Judge can order that the PO application be granted or dismissed.
Aside from a PO, you can seek monetary compensation / damages from the perpetrator. In order to best succeed on such claim, you will have to provide evidence during the proceedings that the harassing acts in question have caused quantifiable damage or loss to you.
Unlike a PO, you do not need to prove that the perpetrator is likely to commit future acts of harassment in a claim for compensation / damages – only that the acts of harassment were committed in the first place.
Civil claims for harassment can be filed as a regular civil claim with the Courts. For claims with damages up to S$20,000 against no more than five persons at once, where such claims are filed within two years of the harassing act, you may be entitled to file a claim under simplified proceedings via the Community Justice and Tribunals System.
Lastly, all acts of harassment under the POHA are also criminal offences.
Criminal proceedings against a perpetrator who has committed acts of harassment can begin by filing a police report, or if the case is not being pursued by the police, filing a Magistrate’s Complaint with the Courts.
If you require any assistance, you may contact: