In Thomas Hodson Hodson Developments Ltd v Person Unknown & Ors [2022] EWHC 1960 (QB) Mr Justice Jay awarded damages in a case where he found that the defendants had harassed the claimant.  An award was made for general damages and for the costs of security (but only up to a month after an injunction had been granted).   The judge observed that proceedings had been issued using the Part 8 procedure, at some stage they should have been transferred to Part 7.

Legislation Crest

Protection from Harassment Act 1997

1997 CHAPTER 40

An Act to make provision for protecting persons from harassment and similar conduct.



This webinar looks at the law relating to harassment from the point of view of the personal injury lawyer. Looking out how the principles involved can be used to the benefit of those who suffer injury as a result harassment.

Booking details are available here.

Topics to be covered include:

  • Is there any common law claim for harassment?
  • The requirements of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
  • What is “harassment”?
  • Is a “course of conduct” necessary?
  • The case law in relation to personal injury actions and harassment.
  • Cases where the claimant has succeeded.
  • Cases where the claimant has failed.
  • Procedure in harassment cases.
  • Damages in harassment cases.



The claimant brought an action claiming he had been harassed by a series of threatening communications orchestrated by the defendants.  Liability was denied.


The judge observed that the action had to be issued under Part 8. It should have been transferred to Part 7.   At trial, however, permission was given to test the evidence.

  1. Claims under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 must be brought under CPR Part 8 but they need not remain there. The Order for an Injunction made on 23rd April 2021 by Mr Recorder Smith sitting as a Deputy Judge of the High Court required DD and LD to state reasons under CPR Part 8.8(1)(b) why the claim should be transferred to CPR Part 7 by no later than 4pm on Friday 7th May 2021. That did not happen. Given that it must have been clear to those advising DD and LD that there were substantial issues of fact, the CPR Part 8 procedure was no longer appropriate. At the very least, an application should have been made for a direction under CPR Part 8.6(2) and (3) as to oral evidence and cross examination. Fortunately, Leading Counsel for the parties very sensibly agreed that justice could not possibly be done in this case without the written evidence being thoroughly tested. It has proved unnecessary to make a formal order for transfer.

Relevant Legal Framework

The judge considered the relevant legal principles.
Section 1 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 provides:
“1 Prohibition of harassment
(1) A person must not pursue a course of conduct—
(a) which amounts to harassment of another, and
(b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.
(1A) A person must not pursue a course of conduct —
(a) which involves harassment of two or more persons, and
(b) which he knows or ought to know involves harassment of those persons, and
(c) by which he intends to persuade any person (whether or not one of those mentioned above)—
(i) not to do something that he is entitled or required to do, or
(ii) to do something that he is not under any obligation to do.
(2) For the purposes of this section or section 2A(2)(c), the person whose course of conduct is in question ought to know that it amounts to or involves harassment of another if a reasonable person in possession of the same information would think the course of conduct amounted to harassment of the other.
(3) Subsection (1) or (1A) does not apply to a course of conduct if the person who pursued it shows—
(a) that it was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime,
(b) that it was pursued under any enactment or rule of law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any enactment, or
(c) that in the particular circumstances the pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable.”
Section 3 provides, in material part:
“3 Civil remedy
(1) An actual or apprehended breach of section 1(1) may be the subject of a claim in civil proceedings by the person who is or may be the victim of the course of conduct in question.
(2) On such a claim, damages may be awarded for (among other things) any anxiety caused by the harassment and any financial loss resulting from the harassment.”
There is nothing between the parties as to the governing legal principles.
In Hayes v Willoughby [2013] UKSC 17; [2013] 1 WLR 935, Lord Sumption characterised harassment as:
“… a persistent and deliberate course of unreasonable and oppressive conduct, targeted at another person, which is calculated to and does cause that person alarm, fear or distress.”
The dividing-line between irritating and annoying conduct on the one hand, and unreasonable and oppressive conduct on the other, is a matter of fact and degree: see Lord Nicholls in Majrowski v Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Trust [2006] UKHL 34; [2007] 1 AC 244.
It is not in dispute that if TH’s evidence is true the phone calls and voicemail messages in question amounted to harassment within the meaning of s. 1.
The civil standard of proof applies: see Hipgrave v Jones [2004] EWHC 2901 (QB). Although proof to a high standard is not required to reflect the seriousness of the conduct alleged, the familiar principle expounded by Lord Nicholls in In re H (Minors) (Sexual Abuse: Standard of Proof) [1996] AC 563 is applicable:
“When assessing the probabilities the court will have in mind as a factor, to whatever extent is appropriate in the particular case, that the more serious the allegation the less likely it is that the event occurred and, hence, the stronger should be the evidence before the court concludes that the allegation is established on the balance of probabilities.”
Harassment is a criminal offence and engages this principle.
Mr Davenport submitted that the case of TH and HDL has proceeded by way of inference alone. In Caswell v Powell Duffryn Associated Collieries Ltd [1940] AC 152, Lord Wright drew a distinction between inference on the one hand, requiring as it did the proof of sufficient positive facts from which a secondary fact might be deduced, and speculation and conjecture on the other. These principles are well understood. In Potter v Price and another [2004] EWHC 781 (QB), the court did infer that a series of anonymous phone calls had been made by the defendants. Mr Davenport submitted that in that case (cf. the present case) there was positive evidence from which the relevant inferences could appropriately be drawn.
HDL has been joined in the claim as an interested person. Only TH claims general damages for alarm, fear and distress, as well as special damages for the cost of hiring security services.



The judge found that the claimant had established his case on the facts.

    1. During the course of the hearing I was receptive to the possibility that TH had concocted this story in order to achieve some sort of strategic or tactical advantage in relation to the underlying commercial dispute, which had become increasingly bitter. As I have already said, there were aspects of TH’s evidence which gave rise to concern, as well as the manner in which he gave it.
    1. By the end of LD’s evidence, however, I was completely satisfied that TH and HDL had proved their case to the relevant standard.
    1. Many of my reasons have been prefigured.
    1. TH and HDL have clearly proved that there were phone calls and voicemail messages left. That, in itself, does not constitute proof that DD and/or LD (the brothers are indistinguishable for these purposes) were behind the calls, and I agree with Mr Davenport that this could only be established as a matter of inference.
    1. However, at the conclusion of the evidence in this case I indicated to counsel that it seemed to me that there were only two sensible possibilities here: either TH concocted the calls, or DD and/or LD were behind them. The possibility of “miscreancy”, as Mr Davenport put it, did not sensibly arise. I have set out the sequence of events in some detail, but one of the key points is that only TH, DD and LD knew of the solicitors’ letters.
    1. Mr Davenport’s initial reaction was not to take issue with what might be described as a binary analysis. However, in oral argument he presented me with four possibilities, viz.:
(1) Concoction;
(2) TH’s evidence was of no probative value;
(3) TH and HDL had failed to discharge the burden of proof;
(4) Miscreancy.
    1. Mr Davenport did not place before me a fifth possibility, which is that TH’s evidence was substantially true. If it were, I adhere to the view that (4) above cannot sensibly arise, and that the inferential case that DD and/or LD must have been behind the calls is made out.
    1. The proposition that there are only two sensible viewpoints does not carry with it any implication that DD and LD must prove concoction. At no stage does any burden of proof shift in their direction. I bear in mind these two binary hypotheses in forming my final judgment as to where the truth lies, but in formal terms the position must be this:
EITHER: TH and HDL have proved their case on the balance of probabilities that the calls etc. were made and that TH was genuinely distressed as a result (he would not have been genuinely distressed had he concocted them)
OR: TH and HDL have not proved their case on the balance of probabilities.
    1. The second option does not require a finding that TH therefore concocted the calls, but if I were satisfied that he did it seems to me that I should so hold.
    1. Mr Davenport strongly submitted that it was just as likely that TH concocted these calls as DD and/or LD were behind them. He argued that the second possibility was inherently implausible (he was not prepared to accept any implausibility as to the first possibility). I cannot accept this analysis. In terms of the inherent probabilities (i.e. the likelihood of X as opposed to Y having taken place as a matter of first impression and before any proper examination of the evidence), the concoction hypothesis is less plausible than the genuine harassment hypothesis. It would require a level of deviousness and dishonesty far greater than the crass and blunt behaviour of the callers and those behind them, assuming that they were genuine calls. I should emphasise, lest I be misunderstood, that what I am calling inherent probability is only the starting point.
    1. Despite my reservations about some of TH’s evidence elsewhere, I am satisfied that what he told me about the calls and his reaction to them was truthful. He was not evasive and keen to contextualise; he answered Mr Davenport’s questions in a direct and honest fashion, aware that I was watching him very closely. His immediate reaction was to call the police, instruct solicitors and hire security. His evidence on these matters has been consistent throughout, and it contains no real weaknesses. I am persuaded by what he told me, and the manner in which he said it, that he has not created a synthetic edifice for his own perverse reasons, with all the risks that would involve.
    1. I have already indicated the respects in which I have found DD and LD to be unsatisfactory witnesses. Further, the delay in responding to TH’s and HDL’s allegations via solicitors is inexplicable if they had a genuine defence, and I also think that it is a striking feature of the evidence that the harassment stopped after personal service of the injunction. At that point, whatever their state of mind before, they fully appreciated and understood the consequences of breach.
    1. I have also referred to the features of the evidence which can only be described as odd. If DD and/or LD were behind the calls, they knew that TH was fully aware of DGL’s bank details. The messages sent on 26th and 27th April were almost ridiculously crass, given amongst other things the risks they were taking. However, it is a false endeavour in cases of this sort to seek to analyse the evidence too closely for complete coherence, and to attempt to attribute a logical and sensible thought-process to behaviour which is inherently irrational.
  1. Overall, I am satisfied by a wide margin that the case of TH and HDL has been proved.


The judge then awarded damages for distress to the individual claimant (not the corporate claimant). He found that damages could not be awarded to the claimant’s family. Security costs were awarded, but only to one month after the interlocutory injunction had been obtained.

    1. I have decided that TH and HDL are entitled to a permanent injunction because there is a risk that without it this conduct might be repeated. DD and LD have obeyed the interim injunction, but I am far from convinced that without legal protections there would not be a repeat.
    1. TH is entitled to general damages for distress. He is not entitled to recover damages as a proxy for his family’s distress. Para 43-019 of McGregor on Damages provides some useful guidance. S&D Property Investments Ltd v Nisbet [2009] EWHC (Ch) provides the closest analogue to the present case. There, £7,000 was awarded as compensation for harassment carried out in connection with the non-payment of a debt. The conduct in the instant case is more serious, and in all the circumstances I award the sum of £11,500 as damages for distress and injury to feelings.
    1. As for special damages, I think that I can take judicial notice of the fact that the sums charged by this security company were, and are, on the high side. However, a claimant in these circumstances is not required to shop around, and in my judgment the nature of the threats justified 24-hour security.
  1. Once the injunction was in place, TH had a substantial measure of protection. The law requires him to act reasonably, and in my judgment there soon came a time at which further security was no longer reasonably required. In my judgment, after about one month, it should have become clear to TH that the injunction was effective. In all the circumstances of this case I allow the claim for security services at the rates and over the hours sought but only until 23:59 on 27th May 2021.