Harassment, alarm or distress
Harassment, alarm or distress is a statutory offence in England and Wales. It is also a term of art used in sections 4A and 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 (which take their names from this expression).
The offence 
The offence is created by section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986:
- "(1) A person is guilty of an offence if he:
- within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby."
This offence has the following statutory defences:
- (a) The defendant had no reason to believe that there was any person within hearing or sight who was likely to be alarmed or distressed by his action.
- (b) The defendant was in a dwelling and had no reason to believe that his behaviour would be seen or heard by any person outside any dwelling.
- (c) The conduct was reasonable.
Mode of trial and sentence 
Sections 5(4) and (5) of the 1986 Act formerly provided a statutory power of arrest (which required a warning to be given beforehand). They were repealed by section 174 of, and Part 2 of Schedule 17 to, the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. Arrest for this offence is now governed by section 24 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (as substituted by the 2005 Act).
There were four to five thousand prosecutions for harassment, alarm or distress brought each year in England and Wales during the 2001–2003 period, with approximately three thousand cases resulting in conviction.
Intentional, harassment alarm or distress 
Racially or religiously aggravated offence 
Section 31(1)(c) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c.37) creates the distinct offence of racially or religiously aggravated harassment, alarm or distress.
See also 
- Blackstones Police Manual: Volume 4: General police duties, Fraser Simpson (2006). pp. 253. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-928522-8
- The Public Order Act 1986, section 5(6)