Ask a counsellor: ‘A man I dated won’t stop sending me letters – how can I get him to stop?’

Ask a counsellor: ‘A man I dated won’t stop sending me letters – how can I get him to stop?’

The problem…

“I went out with a man for about six months some three years ago, but I finished the relationship with him because I felt increasingly uncomfortable about him.

Since then, he has kept sending me letters, postcards or cards at least once a week – sometimes more – and I am sick of it. At first, I sent them back, but now I know he’s moved and I don’t know where to, as he doesn’t put his address on them.

“When they first started coming, I sent him a letter asking him to please stop and that I’m not interested but he took no notice. I then went to a solicitor, who sent him two letters demanding that he stop but this didn’t work either.

Nobody should have to just put up with unwelcome attention (iStock/PA)
Nobody should have to just put up with unwelcome attention (iStock/PA)

“I’m increasingly uncomfortable about it. I went to the police but they won’t do anything because the letters aren’t threatening. I went back to the solicitor but the woman I originally saw has left and the new man clearly wasn’t interested, and it was clear he really didn’t want to help.

“I know I could just bin the letters, but I shouldn’t have to. Even companies aren’t allowed to write to you every month and I just want it stopped.”

Fiona says…

“This man has been writing to you for three years, and whilst his letters are not malicious, they have become a nuisance and cause annoyance and anxiety. The laws on harassment, though, would make it difficult for the police to judge when to act. It’s usually defined as unwanted behaviour which offends you, or which makes you feel humiliated or intimidated. In your case, I suspect the police have decided that whilst it has annoyed you, this constant barrage of letters has neither humiliated you nor intimidated you.

“However, it’s not really their job to decide that. Harassment is both a criminal and a civil offence, but the police might be reluctant to prosecute if they think there is little likelihood of a conviction. It’s the job of the courts to decide if something is harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

The courts will look at whether most people or a reasonable person would think the behaviour amounts to harassment. I think I am a reasonable person and, to me, this seems like harassment, so I think you need to start building a case.

I am a reasonable person and, to me, this seems like harassment

“If you haven’t already done so, put everything you receive from this man to one side – a box at the bottom of the wardrobe, for example, where you don’t have to look at it. Try and keep them in date order – the postmarks should be enough evidence. Once you’ve got a reasonable pile, then phone your local police station and make an appointment to see an officer. Tell them you believe you are the victim of harassment and that you would like to discuss it with someone.

“Hopefully, when the police see the volume and frequency of the letters etc, they will consider it sufficient to prosecute. If they don’t though, don’t despair, as you still have the option of taking an action in the civil courts. The court can make an order or injunction that this man must stop his harassment of you and if that doesn’t stop him, then he will have committed a criminal offence for which he can be prosecuted.

“If you decide to take court action, then I’d strongly recommend you get advice from an experienced legal adviser – but that doesn’t mean you have to go back to the disinterested solicitor. I’d suggest that instead you contact a Citizens Advice local office. They can help you prepare a case and any paperwork that’s needed; it may be that someone from Citizens Advice can even come with you to court.

“I do hope you succeed in getting this man stopped. His obsessive behaviour is not acceptable.”

:: If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to help@askfiona.net for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

- Press Association


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