CCTV cameras and harassment

A client asked if he could lay a criminal charge against a neighbour because her CCTV camera points directly at his bedroom window and invades his privacy. He asked her to point it away, but she refuses to cooperate.

 We have written an article about CCTV cameras at home and the right to privacy.

 This article deals with the criminal implications of harassment.

The Protection from Harassment Act (No. 17 of 2011) deals with your right to approach a Magistrates’ Court in the prescribed manner for a protection order against harassment if you (the Complainant) feel that a person (called the Respondent) is harassing you if he or she causes harm or inspires the reasonable belief that harm may be caused to the complainant (you or a related person [meaning any member of your family or household, or any other person in a close relationship to you] by unreasonably following, watching, pursuing or accosting you or a related person, or loitering outside of or near the building or place where you or a related person resides, works, carries on business, studies or happens to be.

The Act provides for an inexpensive civil remedy to protect a person from behaviour which may not constitute a crime but may impact negatively various rights of an individual. It aims to provide a remedy in the form of protection which would prohibit a person from harassing another person. If the harasser breaches a protection order, he or she commits an offence which is punishable by a fine or a period of imprisonment. It aims to address harassing behaviour by means of a court order, in terms of which the harasser is prohibited from continuing with the act of harassment.

Any person who contravenes such an order is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years.

It is clear that installing a CCTV camera on your property that unreasonably invades the privacy of your neighbour constitutes harassment. You may ask a magistrate at your local court for a temporary order which grants immediate relief until the return date (the date on which the applicant and the respondent, after being given due notice, are to appear before the court to have the protection order made a final order).

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