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Community life

Harassment in the community: Getting protection under the Harassment Act

When a restraining order can be made

How will the judge decide whether to make the restraining order?

Harassment Act 1997, s 16; Harassment Act 1997, ss 8, 16

To be able to make a restraining order the judge must be satisfied that:

  • the behaviour amounts to “harassment”, which means a pattern of behaviour of the kind described in the Harassment Act (see above, “What counts as ‘harassment‘”)
  • the behaviour is causing you distress (or is threatening to do so), and it would have the same effect on any reasonable person in your situation, and
  • the distress is serious enough to justify the judge making a restraining order, and
  • the order is necessary to protect you from further harassment.

So the test for getting a civil restraining order is about the effect of the behaviour on you, the person being harassed – it’s not about what the harasser intended. You only need to show that the harassment caused you “distress”, and that any reasonable person would have been likely to have found it distressing. It’s not necessary for the harasser to have intended to cause you distress – in fact they could even be unaware you find the behaviour distressing.

By contrast the test for criminal harassment focuses on the harasser’s intention (see in this chapter, “Going to the police: When the criminal law can help with harassment”).

What kind of proof will the judge need, and how much?

Harassment Act 1997, ss 29, 30

Y0u’ll need to provide the judge with information to prove that you’ve been the victim of harassment and that you need a restraining order to protect you. The judge can consider a broad range of evidence, including evidence that wouldn’t normally be allowed in other court cases, if the judge believes it’s in the interests of justice to allow the evidence.

You’ll need to prove your case on the “balance of probabilities” – in other words, that your case is more likely than not to be true.

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Harassment and bullying

Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Victims Information


Phone: 0800 650 654
Email: victimsinfo@justice.govt.nz

This is the website of the government’s “Victims Centre”. The site provides links to a range of services available to help victims deal with the practical and emotional effects of the crime, at each stage of the criminal and youth justice process.

Human Rights Commission


Phone: 0800 496 877
Email: infoline@hrc.co.nz

The Human Rights Commission website has information about your rights if you’re sexually or racially harassed:

“Sexual harassment” guide

Racial harassment

Harassment and bullying in the workplace


The Worksafe New Zealand website has information and guidance about workplace bullying:

YouthLaw Aotearoa


Phone: 0800 UTHLAW (0800 884 529)
Email: nzyouthlaw@gmail.com

YouthLaw provides free legal advice for young people throughout New Zealand. Their website provides great information for young people about the law around harassment and bullying.

Ministry of Justice

Applying for a Harmful Digital Communications Order

This has information about applying to a District Court judge for a “take down” order or other type of action when you’ve suffered serious emotional distress because of cyberbullying:


Help with online bullying, abuse and harassment


Go to this website for free and confidential help if you’ve been bullied, abused or harassed online. NetSafe has been appointed by the government to be a free information service and complaints agency under the Harmful Digital Communications Act.

NZ Police


This police webpage lists a number of phone counselling services and websites that can help.

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