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.
In July 2017 a joint report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMIC/HMPSI) recommended that “chief constables should stop the use of Police Information Notices and their equivalents immediately”.
The College of Policing has been working on new guidance for some time and this is expected to recommend the term “Early Harassment Notice” rather than Police Information Notices. The College says that the guidance will “clearly outline the limited circumstances when officers can use them.”
Why do the police issue PINs?
The original idea behind getting people to sign PINs was 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. There might be other legal remedies depending on the circumstances.
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.
Recommendation that PINs should end
In July 2017, HMIC/HMICPS found many examples of inappropriate use of PINs when they inspected the police and the Crown Prosecution Service’s response to harassment and stalking. It noted that some forces have stopped issuing PINs. The report said that removing PINs from use would result in better responses to victims.
New guidance is being produced
The College of Policing is drawing up draft guidance on Early Harassment Notices which is to be included in new Authorised Professional Practice guidance on harassment and stalking. Publication of the guidance has been delayed for some time now. The College has been working with working with charities and others on training for the police.
This Briefing Paper covers the position in England and Wales only.