International Protection from Harassment

On 11 January 2015 a new European Regulation came into force with the aim of providing automatic recognition of measures to protect against violence and harassment (“Protection Measures”) across EU Member States. All EU Member States have adopted the legislation, save for Denmark.

A protection measure is described as a measure ordered with a view to protecting another person when their physical or psychological integrity is at risk. In England these all most commonly be Non-Molestation Orders, Occupation Orders or Forced Marriage Protection Orders. The person seeking such Orders (referred to in the new legislation as the “protected person”) is likely to have been subjected to harassment, domestic violence or threatened with forced marriage by another person (referred to as ‘the person causing the risk’). A protection measure consists of a prohibition or regulation on the person causing the risk going to a certain place, having contact in any form with the protected person or going closer than a prescribed distance to the protected person.

This is a helpful piece of legislation as it will enable a protection measure obtained in one EU country in the EU to be recognised in another country also within the EU. The court recognising the measure cannot challenge the grounds or validity of the order, and must recognise it automatically. The protected person needs to apply to for a certificate to confirm that a protection measure has been obtained, and this will enable the measure to be recognised by courts or authorities elsewhere.

This new legislation offers cross-border protection. It will be useful in a number of examples, including in international family law cases where a protected person obtains a protection measure in one country, but they or the perpetrator subsequently move elsewhere. It will also cover the increasingly common situation where the protected person is being subjected to harassment or threats by someone living in a different country. Although there may have been means to protect a person in those circumstances under the previous law, the new EU regulation will offer a more straightforward and convenient means of protection.

It is important for people subject to harassment to realise that even if the perpetrator lives elsewhere, they can still be protected and anyone subject to cross-border abuse or harassment should speak to a legal advisor to explore the options and how this new piece of legislation may be able to protect them. As with a great deal of international law, there are very specific rules and requirements relating to the application for a certificate. If these are not correctly followed then it may invalidate any certificate obtained and the protection may not continue. It is therefore essential that anyone wishing to take advantage of this new law seeks appropriate legal advice from an experienced International Family Lawyer.

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