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Criminal & traffic law

Getting protection under the Harassment Act

What a restraining order does

Standard conditions of Restraining Orders

Harassment Act 1997, s 19

A Restraining Order makes it a criminal offence for the harasser to contact you in any way, or to do things like watching or hanging around outside your home, or following you or stopping you in the street, or doing anything else that gives you a reasonable fear for your safety.

The order also makes it illegal for the harasser to threaten to do any of those things, or to encourage one of their friends or any other person to do one of those things to you.

If the order has been made because of a continuing act of harassment, it’s a condition of the order that the harasser must take reasonable steps to stop this continuing. For example, if the harasser had posted offensive material about you online, they’ll have to take the offensive material down.

For a full list of the kinds of behaviour that are banned under a Restraining Order, see: “What counts as ‘harassment’”.

Special conditions of Restraining Orders

Harassment Act 1997, s 20

When a judge makes a Restraining Order, they can also add any special conditions they think are reasonably necessary to protect you from more harassment – for example, requiring the harasser to stay away from a particular public place that you regularly visit.

The judge can specify how long the special condition will last for. If they don’t specify this, the condition lasts for as long as the Restraining Order lasts (see: “How long does a Restraining Order last for?” below).

Protection from others who’ve been encouraged to harass you

Harassment Act 1997, ss 10, 18

If the harasser has encouraged another person to harass you, a Restraining Order can also be made against that other person. This other person is called an “associated respondent”. The conditions of the Restraining Order apply to the associated respondent just as they do to the main harasser (“the respondent”).

When does the Restraining Order first take effect?

If the judge grants a Restraining Order, it takes effect straight away and from that point the harasser must obey the conditions of the order.

However, the harasser can’t be charged and prosecuted for any breach of the order until they’ve been “served” with the order (that is, given it personally). This will be done by either a court bailiff, a private process server or the police hand-delivering a copy of the order to them.

A copy of the order will also be given to you and to the local police station.

How long does a Restraining Order last for?

Harassment Act 1997, ss 21–24

A Restraining Order can be made for as long as the judge thinks is necessary to protect you. If the judge doesn’t specify a particular period, the order lasts for one year.

If the judge does specify a period for the order, this can later be extended if this is necessary to protect you from more harassment.

Either you or the harasser can apply for the Restraining Order to be ended (“discharged”) before it is due to end. The judge will need to be convinced that the order is no longer necessary.

What happens if someone breaches a Restraining Order?

Harassment Act 1997, s 25

If the harasser breaches the Restraining Order, they can be jailed for up to six months or fined up to $5,000.

However, they can be jailed for up to two years if they’ve already been convicted twice in the last three years of breaching a Restraining Order made to protect you. This heavier penalty applies whether the earlier convictions related to the same Restraining Order or to a separate Restraining Order made to protect you.

Note: To get a Restraining Order you have to show that there’s been a pattern of harassment. But once the order is made, any further harassment will be a breach and a criminal offence, even if there’s just a single act.

As well as being charged with breaching a Restraining Order, the respondent can also be charged with any other crime committed at the same time, such as assault, theft, or misuse of a telephone.

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Bullying, harassment and sexual harm

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Victims Information

Victims Information is managed by the Ministry of Justice and provides links to a range of services available to help victims deal with the practical and emotional effects of the crime.

Website: www.victimsinfo.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 650 654

NZ Police

The police provide a list of phone counselling services and websites that can help victims of bullying and cyberbullying.

Website: www.police.govt.nz/about-site/other-sites/no-bully-website

Harassment and bullying in the workplace

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

Website: www.worksafe.govt.nz/topic-and-industry/bullying-prevention-toolbox

Te Kāhui Tika Tangata/Human Rights Commission

The Human Rights Commission website provides information about human rights in Aotearoa and outlines how you can make a complaint to the Commission.

Website: tikatangata.org.nz or www.hrc.co.nz
Email: infoline@hrc.co.nz
Phone: 0800 496 877 (0800 4 YOUR RIGHTS)

Information on racial harassment: www.hrc.co.nz/files/6714/2354/5062/24-Nov-2009_16-20-38_RacialHarassment-web.pdf

To make a complaint online, download a complaint form or find out more about the complaints process: tikatangata.org.nz/resources-and-support/make-a-complaint

YouthLaw Aotearoa

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.

Website: www.youthlaw.co.nz
Email: nzyouthlaw@gmail.com
Phone: 0800 UTHLAW (0800 884 529)



NetSafe provides 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.

Website: www.netsafe.org.nz
Email: help@netsafe.org.nz
Phone: 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723)
Text: “Netsafe” to 4282

Ministry of Justice – applying for a Harmful Digital Communications Order

See the Ministry of Justice website for 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.

Website: www.justice.govt.nz/courts/civil/harmful-digital-communications/applying-for-a-harmful-digital-communications-order

NOTE: Before you apply to the court you must have complained to NetSafe.

Support for sexual harassment and assault

Wellington Rape Crisis

Wellington Rape Crisis provides free social work and counselling services to survivors, along with their friends, family, whānau and supporters.

Website: wellingtonrapecrisis.org.nz
Phone: 04 801 8973
Email: support@wellingtonrapecrisis.org.nz


HELP has been Auckland’s specialist provider of sexual abuse support services since 1982.

Website: www.helpauckland.org.nz
Email: gethelp@helpauckland.org.nz
Phone: 0800 623 1700
Instagram: www.instagram.com/helpauckland

Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Aotearoa

Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Aotearoa aims to enable all male survivors of sexual abuse to access a national network of a high quality support services.

Website: malesurvivor.nz

Contact your local support organisation: malesurvivor.nz/contact

Safe to Talk

Safe to Talk offers free confidential contact with a trained specialist at any time, day or night, seven days a week.

Website: safetotalk.nz
Email: support@safetotalk.nz
Phone: 0800 044 334
Text: 4334

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