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Criminal & traffic law

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, ss 8, 16

To be able to make a Restraining Order the judge has to agree that:

  • the behaviour amounts to “harassment,” which means a pattern of behaviour of the kind described in the Harassment Act (see: “What counts as ‘harassment’”)
  • the behaviour (or the threat of this behaviour) is causing you distress, 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 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’ve 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: “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

You’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 that your case is more likely than not to be true (on the “balance of probabilities”).

Note: An application for a Restraining Order is always made “on notice” to the other person (the “respondent”). This means they’re given a copy of the application and affidavit in support, and have a chance to present a defence before the court decides whether to grant the Restraining Order.

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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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