Online harassment and public dis-order
In August 2009, Keeley Houghton became the first person to be convicted under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (PHA) where one of the acts constituting the course of conduct in question was bullying pursued via a social networking site. Ultimately, the conviction was completely justifiable but the facts of the case highlight again the problems with the legislation currently governing this area of law. While the facts of this particular case allowed for the PHA 1997 to be applied with relative ease, the outcome could have been different had the facts differed slightly. It will be argued that the legislative provisions governing harassment are confusing, inaccessible and lack clarity and cohesion. Although a conviction might alternatively be possible under the duplicitous offence of harassment under s.5 of the Public Order Act 1986 (POA), these provisions are also problematic and an unsuitable alternative. This further reinforces the need for substantial reform of the law on harassment.