Hi folks, here is the long awaited guide to stopping harassment from the DWP, and how to legally protect yourself from unlawful, behaviour inflicted by the DWP, Jobcentre Plus, or any other organisation, including G4S security staff contracted to the DWP/Jobcentre Plus.
What is Harassment?
Harassment is generally defined as any course of action which causes the recipient to feel distressed, humiliated or threatened. In law, the Protection from Harassment Act 1997provides a legal remedy for recipients of harassment if it can be shown that an offence has occurred as a result of:
- a course of conduct;
- which amounts to harassment of another; and
- which the defendant knows, or ought to know amounts to harassment of another.
This specific piece of legislation is what I have relied upon to prevent the DWP from harassing me further, as detailed in my Cease and Desist letter dated the 11th of September 2014.
Example of Harassment
- Jobcentre Plus advisers behaving in a manner which causes you to feel distressed, humiliated or threatened. This could be anything from the way they speak to you, to more specific actions, such as threatening to stop your benefits for no reason (i.e. an unlawful sanction).
- Being forced to attend a Work Programme related activity despite it not being in your immediate or long-term interest
- Being repeatedly called to pointless interviews or meetings at the Jobcentre Plus/DWP
- Causing unnecessary delays when processing complaints, claims, appeals or other documents
- Making false accusations or claims about you
- Misrepresenting information you have given
These are just a few examples of what may constitute harassment, however, each case will be judged on its individual merits and what one person may find cause for harassment, another may not. If you feel distressed, humiliated or threatened by an incident, and other people would feel the same in the same circumstances, then you will be entitled to class that behaviour as harassment.
Under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, there is a level of proof required to show harassment has occurred.
Essentially, it must be shown that:
- two incidents have occurred from the same individual or group of people;
- the conduct was targeted towards an individual (i.e. You);
- the conduct was intended to cause distress; and
- the conduct was oppressive and unreasonable.
In practice, if you can show that there had been at least two separate incidents which made you feel distressed, humiliated or threatened and that they knew it would cause you distress, then the probability is that you will have a good case to prove harassment.
How to Stop The Harassment
The moment that the DWP act in a manner which causes you to feel distressed, humiliated or threatened, you must complain to them in writing that their behaviour made you feel that way and that you don’t wish to be treated in that manner. Send the letter by Recorded Delivery or make sure you get a signed and dated copy and receipt from the DWP if you hand deliver it.
Once the letter of complaint has been sent, if you experience a second incident which makes you feel distressed, humiliated or threatened, then you need to have ready a Cease and Desist letter ready to give to them and simply hand it to them without telling them what it is and once they accept the letter, inform them that it is a Cease and Desist letter for harassment and that if they breach the terms of the Cease and Desist letter then you will file charges for harassment and get the police involved.
The important point after the letter has been handed in is to maintain the pressure on them to get the outcome which you require. I will be posting audio clips of my various phone calls where I had to invoke the power of the Cease and Desist letter and you will hear for yourself just how fearful the DWP employees get when confronted with someone who knows their rights, can remain calm and assertive, plus has the power to threaten the DWP employee with a visit from the police if the person in question can be shown to have breached the terms stated in the Cease and Desist letter.
What to Do if They Don’t Stop the Harassment
If after the Cease and Desist letter has been handed in they continue their course of harassment, then you are within your legal rights to phone the police and demand that they investigate your claim of harassment against the DWP or the individual in question. Inform the police that you have given them a lawful Cease and Desist letter for harassment and that they have breached the terms of the letter and you now wish to formally press charges against the DWP or named individual.
If the harassment is solely from one individual, or the same group of individuals, then you can also insist that the police investigate an allegation of Misconduct in Public Office, an offence which can be proven by proving malicious harassment from employees who hold Public Offices, such as Jobcentre Plus advisers. The offence also carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
It is a good idea to have copies of all evidence readily available for the police to investigate as this will make it appear an easier case for them to look into (harassment is pretty much clear cut in cases involved mistreatment at the hands of an organisation).
If the police refuse to take your allegations seriously, or refuse to investigate, you should ask to speak to the Duty Sergeant and make a formal complaint about their refusal to investigate a crime despite having proof of said crime.
By the time I gave them the Cease and Desist letter I had been subject to harassment for around 3 months and was fed up of it and sought out a legal remedy to prevent them behaving in that manner. I found a Cease and Desist letter template and when I handed it in, it certainly had the desired effect and they started treating me with respect. Even the people I spoke to over the phone were respectful, especially when I pointed out that they could face arrest and jail time if they behaved in a manner which I felt constituted harassment.
Since handing in the Cease and Desist letter, the DWP have managed to turn around in 5 days what they had failed to do in over 2 months. I have only had to involve the police for one DWP employee (so far!), and that was for the DWP Compliance Officer, Miss Maria Clark, who fraudulently completed a report stating that I had refused entry and not being available for the home visit they inflicted upon me when I started complaining about being sanctioned.
By tomorrow (Thursday the 18th of September 2014) the DWP will have:
- Overturned all three of the unlawful sanctions that they have inflicted upon me (with no further evidence relied on by me)
- Paid back what was lawfully mine
- Be forced to issue a humbling apology
- Uphold my demand for compensation for the stress and hardship caused by the DWP’s harassment (I requested one week’s benefit payment for each week that I have been affected by this. Given that they started this on the 21st of June 2014, that is going to be a pretty large bill for them).
- And, saving the best for last: DWP Compliance Officer Miss Maria Clark will hopefully have had a visit and questioning from the police for charges relating to harassment and Misconduct in Public Office, which is a Common Law offence and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
It can, and has been done, and if you need specific guidance for your circumstances, please contact me and I will be happy to help.