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Harassment: "Police Information Notices" or "Early Harassment Notices" in England and Wales

Published Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The police sometimes issue warning notices to individuals where there are allegations of harassment. This note explains what these are and why they are used.

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Constituents sometimes ask about the status of Police Information Notices (PINs) which the police may issue where there are allegations of harassment. These notices (sometimes called Harassment Warning Notices or Early Harassment Notices) are not covered by legislation, and don’t themselves constitute any kind of formal legal action.

Why do the police issue PINs?

One reason the police get people to sign these notices is to show in possible future legal proceedings that a suspect was aware that their behaviour would count as harassment.  This is important because the offence of harassment occurs where:

  • there has been a “course of conduct” (not just one event); and
  • the perpetrator knows or ought to know that their conduct amounts to harassment. 

No formal right of appeal

Because signing a Police Information Notice does not mean admitting any wrongdoing, there is no right of appeal. If a person is unhappy about the fact that the warning was issued, he or she could complain to the police force concerned.

The Home Affairs Committee's recommendations

The Home Affairs Committee produced a report on PINs in 2015.  This noted that they could be a useful tool in combating harassment, but it also acknowledged that the lack of any procedure for appealing against a PIN “can feel very unfair to recipients.” The Committee called for consistent publication of data and more training for the police.  It also said that potential recipients should be given the opportunity to give their account of the situation before the PIN is issued.

New guidance is being produced

The College of Policing has produced draft guidance on PINs which is to be included in new Authorised Professional Practice guidance on harassment and stalking.  The guidance has yet to be published, however.

This Briefing Paper covers the position in England and Wales only.

Commons Briefing papers SN06411

Author: Pat Strickland

Topics: Crime, Police

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