Wife was‘collateral victim’ of harassment

Posted: 24th March 2015

StressIn a decision which recognised for the first time that harassment can harm not just those directly targeted, but also their loved ones, the Court of Appeal has awarded £6,000 in damages to the wife of a businessman who suffered spiteful abuse at the hands of a football club chairman.

Former Leeds United chairman, Ken Bates, bore a personal grudge against Melvyn Levi and had used match day programmes and a radio station controlled by the club to publish wounding allegations against him to a potential audience of over 100,000 football fans. Levi sued under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and was awarded damages of £10,000.

His wife’s similar claim was dismissed by a judge on grounds that she was not the target of the harassment. Save in one instance, in which doubt was cast on the stability of her marriage, the harassment was aimed at her husband. Although she had suffered distress, and was naturally concerned for her husband, the single instance was not a course of conduct which could amount to harassment.

Allowing the wife’s appeal, the Court found that she was a collateral victim of the chairman’s harassment campaign. The allegations against her husband were far removed from reasonable journalistic comment and it was foreseeable that she would suffer alarm and distress. In those circumstances, there was no sensible reason why she should not also be compensated.