In 2012 I wrote an article about grandparents who were accused of harassment for sending birthday cards and presents to their grandchildren, it caused huge reaction from the media.
Sadly, it still continues.
The Harassment Law, which is there to quite rightly protect people from unwanted attention is used by family members to frighten grandparents, many feel suicidal after the police arrive on their doorstep. One grandparents said to me,’ I felt so ashamed, and felt like a criminal.’
Grandparents who have never been in trouble with the law, open their front doors to police officers who tell them the have been accused of harassment and in some cases a PIN (Police Information Number) is issued.
Harassment warnings – or PINs as the police refer to them (Police Information Notices) are formal written notices given to people who have been accused of causing another alarm and distress. They contain an account of the incident as alleged by the complainant and a warning that any further incidents could result in arrest and prosecution.
More information can be found on the cps website : https://www.cps.gov.uk/legal-guidance/stalking-and-harassment
This is the section that allows family members to use this Act :
• Frequent, unwanted contact, eg, appearing at the home or workplace of the victim, telephone calls, text messages, emails or other contact such as via the internet (ie, social networking sites);
• Driving past the victim’s home or work;
• Following or watching the victim;
• Sending letters or unwanted ‘gifts’ to the victim;
Over many years I have listened to stories of grandparents facing this ordeal, it leaves them devastated and in fear, of acknowledging their grandchildren in any way, as they might get arrested.
When I first wrote about this I spoke to our local Police Authority who said that they dealt with accusations of harassment case by case. Whatever that meant.
It still appears that there is no consistency amongst the different Police Authorities as to how to deal sensitively with this problem. Indeed from stories I have heard, some forces are very heavy handed indeed.
” We were accused of harassment, Police arrived at our door and were quite aggressive, we had sent a cards and presents to our GC and this happened, we felt like criminals, we have never got over it, I have nightmares about it and I am almost afraid to open my own front door.”
“I have received a PIN for sending a really kind email to my son and asking if I could have a visit with my Granddaughter, I told the Police Officer that I wouldn’t accept a PIN because what evidence did they have for issuing one to me and also since when was loving your Granddaughter an offence of Harassment.”
“ I didn’t get a PIN, but l was threatened with one. My ex Dils mother lives a few doors away, so when she first stopped contact in Ocober 2017 l put a note a nice note saying could we discuss the situation etc. I was then threatened through our solicitor that if l tried any form of contact she would contact the Police for harassment charges. As l need to be CRB checked for my job there was no further contact
l felt through this process the law is on their side and we are powerless.”
“Following a solicitor’s letter in 2015, we had made no attempt at contact with our son and daughter-in-law .
I refused to ignore the usual family occasions of Christmas, Easter, Birthdays and their Wedding Anniversaries and always posted on FB a picture of the card I would have sent. Any comments made were always non-confrontational, no hidden meanings. These would often attract supporting comments from family members hoping that matters could be resolved etc. – certainly never of an antagonistic kind. I always published publicly in case they could see them but son and daughter-in-law had blocked me for some time.
My last action prior to the police visit was to post (on FB) Christmas wishes and Wedding Anniversary congratulations.
We were visited late on 27th December 2016. A huge shock going to the door to see a uniformed officer outside. He asked if I knew why he was there, I said not.
He told me that a complaint had been made “that I was encouraging others to leave comments about them on my social media account with a view to obtaining information about their address” and that we were “making fun of their situation” (at that time this made no sense). Furthermore, my daughter-in-law said she was “terrified to leave the house” in case I was following her and it was suggested that I must be suffering from mental health issues.
The policeman was initially rather terse but as he listened to our story his attitude changed totally. I pointed out that I could not control other people’s comments of course. I had never followed her and did not know where they lived but it appears her claiming “fear of being stalked” is enough to invoke a police response.
We sat and talked for an hour. By the time he left he was promising that as he had to report back to the complainants, he would suggest that he personally set up a mediation session which he would run voluntarily to try to help!
We heard nothing further.
But following the visit I called around my family to tell them under no circumstances to make contact as I would suffer the consequences. One person told me he had contacted them before Christmas to get an address so he could send them a card. He was refused – rudely he thought and without explanation which was odd as he and my son had always got on very well. Another came forward to tell us he’d heard that their marriage had broken down and they were now separated! Completely unknown to us but explains the claim of “making fun of them”, my anniversary wishes were meant with the best of intentions, not being in contact of course I knew no different.
The police told me that the complaint had been marked as malicious. However, no further action was taken.
The twist in the story – though far from a conclusion – was that this Christmas again after having made no attempt at contact all year was that we received a “Happy Christmas Mom and Dad” card signed “with love ”. This gave us so much hope that our son must have been thinking about us though nothing further has been heard since. This was particularly hard on my wife on Mother’s Day as she and our son had always been very close.
So although we were not issued with a PIN (because I think the Police realised it was malicious) all it took was a fictitious complaint and we got a late night knock on the door. Fortunately my wife and daughter were both there as well so we all had our say but someone living on their own would have been terrified I’m sure. “
” I was informed by my local Police Force that they do not have a policy of issuing a PIN, and will only give a verbal warning. I was never given any paperwork but subsequently requested it using a Freedom of Information Subject Request. It was not voluntarily given to me by the investigating Police Officer at the time.
I was not happy to see words like ‘Crime Report’ and naming me as ‘Suspect’ and ‘offender’. It stated in my “Modus Operandi” that I had repeatedly sent letters and made phone calls to my elderly Mother calling her a liar and an awful person. No such letters existed. However 2 letters had been written 12 months previously offering reconciliation, and both of these letters were in response to very unpleasant letters that I had received. There has been no telephone contact whatsoever for almost 5 years, No such things have ever been said in any telephone conversation at any time.
The investigating Police Officer from another force has since admitted in an email that my letters were “not of a direct malicious nature” and that she “appreciated my intention with the letters”.
My elderly Mother and myself were very close until 5 years ago. Unfortunately other family members have successfully alienated & isolated her from me by telling her numerous falsehoods about my wife and myself. Throughout my life I was the son who gave her the companionship and emotional support she needed during many of her own troubled times. Divorce, illness, family deaths etc.
The instigation of involving the police would not have been done by her. My alleged letters and phone calls were in fact a Red Herring, and were a knee jerk reaction because I had raised safeguarding concerns and possible elderly psychological abuse to Social Services.
On the face of it this complicated family breakdown should have nothing to do with estrangement of grandchildren and their grandparents, however in our case it did. The rift between my Mother and myself was one of the cornerstone reasons to justify why 3 of our grandchildren were being denied contact with us.
With regard to the police, they most certainly should not have become involved, but once the allegations were made to them they should have investigated the matter properly at the before proceeding and handing out the warning. It was a total waste of police time.”
“My daughter and I were served a PIN a few years ago because my estranged daughter spotted us in our car about 100 meters down the road from my son‘s school. She took photos. A few weeks later her solicitor wrote and asked for an apology which we refused to give. Some time later 2 embarrassed police officers arrived and served the PIN. I spoke to the relevant officer at C…………. Police station who said that my daughter arrived with a list of dates of when I am supposed to have contacted her against her wishes. That is all the evidence the police required for the service of a PIN.
” My son has been charged and interviewed under caution as he bumped into her in town and dared to ask if she would be attending mediation. This caused my son to have a Mental breakdown and he is still under the Mental health team . Bullying to the extreme.”
“ We have looked after our grandchildren from six weeks old until 2012, when the oldest was 15 yrs. We were a major part of their lives. What I believed to be a good relationship with our daughter, she, out of the blue, said she wished to terminate our relationship, and that we were barred from her house and we couldn’t see the grandchildren. (Nearly six years on she certainly meant it, and I am still in shock).
In 2017, five years after our estrangement, two policeman called at our house, early in the morning and without telling me they were coming issued me with a PIN notice. When I saw them coming I immediately thought that there had been an accident or worse. I was upset and shaking, not to mention my husband with heart problems. They came into our house and even before the policeman sat down he started saying that our daughter had said we were harassing her for the last five years and that we had not to send her any more cards, letters or contact her.
He produced a PIN notice, already typed. I had been judged without being heard. These allegations are totally untrue. Absolute lies and fabrications. I cannot stress enough how she lied about me to this policeman.
This policeman had not seen me, or heard my side of the story, but there I was with a PIN. He asked if I wanted to comment about it and he wrote that “this is all about money. When the payments stopped (£6000 a year for Inheritance Tax reasons) this is when the hostilities started.” We had given our daughter a fortune, but she became very greedy and demanding and asked more, much more, when the last payment of £6000 was stopped, Our punishment was to stop us from seeing the children, and of course using the Police for her benefit.
Our daughter had a choice of me being talked to, or arrested. She asked that I should just be talked too. Our solicitor has said that in a way it may have been better if I had been arrested, because she would have to prove her allegations, which clearly she couldn’t.
Because of this PIN, I discovered that I may have been on the DBS and as I do volunteer work with vulnerable people, I had an anxious couple of weeks before I was told I was not on it. Same with the police computer. I was told I was on this too, but have been told after many weeks of enquiring that I am not on it. The stress not doing my health any good waiting for phone calls, making me very anxious .
The PC has apologized saying that he didn’t know we had medical issues when he visited us. The shock could have killed us especially my husband. The PC although he said he didn’t take sides, made it obvious he was on our daughter’s side. I don’t blame him in a way as she is very plausible, but as I have pointed out when I complained that I have known her all of her 55 years, and he has only seen her for half an hour or so. How can he judge?
This PC also videoed me with a body worn camera, and didn’t tell me or ask permission. Like I say I was treated like a criminal, and I would add that my husband and I are law abiding, decent citizens, wouldn’t even drop a toffee paper.
The other policeman who came, was entirely different, and he was reassuring, and absolutely “got” what I was taking about. He even suggested when he heard our story, that I go to the police and ask them to charge our daughter with harassment. I know I have grounds for this as I saw my solicitor afterwards and he confirmed that it is SHE who is harassing me. But of course, I wouldn’t dream of sending the police to her. My own flesh and blood.
These two policeman made a 50 mile round journey to our house, without knowledge that I was in. Didn’t even telephone first. As it was a month after my daughter made the allegation about me, we believe that they must have been to our house more than once, wasting tax payers money. When I complained about this, the Superintendent wouldn’t tell me how many times they had been! I said that I wouldn’t make a 50 mile round trip without knowing that people were in. I wouldn’t waste my time or money!!! My time – my money! Taxpayers money?
I said that this is a family matter and that the police should have better things to do than chasing grandparents with PIN notices.
I made a complaint and a very pleasant Police Inspector visited me three times, totaling about 6 or 7 hours of his time. He investigated and the PC involved has apologised in writing about many aspects of his visit and the Inspector verbally said that the police have listened and learned from me and that the PC involved is truly sorry.
They have said that they will not cold call on elderly people early morning, and that they will telephone first before they arrive. I have a letter confirming that they will not cold call on pensioners and they will telephone first, so hope that I am the last OAP to get an unannounced early morning call. I’m pleased about that.
However I am not entirely satisfied with the PCs apology. He has apologized for some things but not others so I am making an appeal. When the Inspector came, he said that he has tried all ways to remove the PIN, but it is a legal document and cannot be removed. He said it is worth less than a parking ticket, but I am furious that my daughter (never mind that she is a NHS psychotherapist) can say lies about me and this document is held in a police station.
I have also been informed that had my daughter made these allegations against me a few weeks later, then my side of the story would have been heard also, then both sides taken to supervision, and then a decision made. No-one could argue with that and much better than the draconian way that I and many others have been dealt with.
I find it hard to believe that in this day and age, the police can listen to one side, not question the accuser, take what they say as gospel, then give the innocent party (me and my husband) so much stress and distress. Meanwhile this PIN with lies about me lies in the police station, so I am still pursing avenues to have this thing (even though I am told it is worth less than a parking ticket) to be destroyed.”
“After 9 months of alienation from my daughter, I decided to try to make amends …. so I sent my daughter a card, purchased from M&S, with a beach theme on the front. I wrote inside it that I was sorry, if I had done ‘something’ to upset her, and would like to apologize. I also asked her if we could put our differences behind us and see each other again. Perfectly innocent with nothing offensive at all. Sadly, I didn’t think to make a copy of it, to prove just what I wrote.
About 3 days later, a police officer rang our door bell, and spoke to me, saying that my daughter had accused me of harassment! He said it was a warning for me to not contact her directly, but to go via her solicitor. I was absolutely heartbroken at this …. my own daughter treating me with such disrespect. That day, truly changed me and I realized that this was going to be a long haul situation and that is exactly what it has become.”
We have a police force that is overstretched and yet they are obliged to follow up on a complaint such as these, is it not possible to just make a phone call and have a conversation? this ‘Act’ has this loophole and it needs to be addressed, it is a complete waste of tax payers money and of valuable police time.
Several years ago the whole issue of PIN’s was discussed and a report was supposed to follow, as far as I can see, we are still waiting to see a report of findings.
In the meantime those who want to use the Harassment Act this way, will no doubt continue, leaving grandparents afraid,confused and bewildered, some will never get over it.
(Thank you for everyone who sent me their stories,written permission was given by contributors.)