The purpose of this page is to outline the conventional approach to the measure of damages for harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act and to identify reported cases which may serve as guides to the amounts which may be awarded.
Please note that this is concerned only with damages for distress or anxiety etc. falling short of actual psychiatric injury as where there is actual injury damages will be assessed in the normal way e.g. by reference to the Judicial Studies Board Guidelines in the light of medical evidence.
The conventional approach is that damages for harassment should be approached in the same way as those awarded for injury to feelings in discrimination cases; an approach endorsed by the Court of Appeal in Martins v Choudhary.
However, the point has been made (in S&D Property Investments v Nisbet) that it would be wrong to apply precisely the same awards as discrimination necessarily involves an award for the humiliation of being treated differently on the grounds of a protected characteristic such as sex or race.
In discrimination cases, the starting point is the 3 bands of award which were identified by the Court of Appeal in Vento v Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police  EWCA Civ 1871. which were:
£500 to £5,000 for less serious cases, such as where an act of discrimination is an isolated or one off occurrence.
£5,000 to £15,000 for serious cases which do not merit an award in the highest band
£15,000 to £25,000* for the most serious cases, such as where there has been a lengthy campaign of discriminatory harassment on the ground of sex or race.
Following an inflationary review in 2009 by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Da’Bell v NSPCC UKEAT/0277/09/CEA, those bands were increased and awards were later affected by the case of Simmons v Castle in which the Court of Appeal declared that with effect from 1 April 2013, awards of damages for pain, suffering and loss of amenity should be increased by 10%.
There was doubt about whether that increase applied to awards of damages for discrimination but that doubt was resolved by De Souza v Vinci Construction (UK) Ltd in which the Court of Appeal confirmed its application.
At the invitation of the Court of Appeal in De Souza, the Presidents of the Tribunals in England & Wales and in Scotland later issued Presidential Guidance on 5 September 2017 which applies to cases presented on or before 11 September 2017.
Thus the position now is that in respect of claims presented on or after 11 September 2017 the bands of awards are:
£800 to £8,400 for less serious cases, such as where an act of discrimination is an isolated or one off occurrence.
£8,400 to £25,200 for serious cases which do not merit an award in the highest band
£25,200 to £42,000* for the most serious cases, such as where there has been a lengthy campaign of discriminatory harassment on the ground of sex or race.
In respect of cases presented before 11 September 2017, Tribunals are directed to start from the Vento bands, uprate those by the increase in the RPI All Items Index from December 2002 (when the Index was 178.5) to the month and year closest to the date on which the claim was presented and then apply a further increase of 10% if being considered after 1 April 2013 (but note that this will not apply in a harassment claim if the Claimant is entitled to recover the success fee under a conditional fee agreement).
*The most exceptional cases may merit an award in excess of the maximum £42,000
There are few reported judgments in which damages have been awarded specifically under the PHA. Those I have found are listed in a table (available as a pdf; see below) along with a very brief outline of the nature and extent of the harassment. The document has links embedded to any available reports which should be read for proper detail before trying to apply any of these to an individual case.
In practice, as indeed these cases demonstrate, much will turn both on the nature of the harassment (e.g. whether it involved actual or threatened violence, direct personal confrontation such as visits and calls or was limited to letters), the duration of the course of conduct and, of course, the evidence of the target about the impact of the harassment.