This page provide definitions in relation to bullying, harassment, sexual misconduct and hate crime.
Where possible, we have used the legal definitions of these terms and best practise from organisations such as ACAS, Rape Crisis and the Metropolitan Police.
- Bullying can be defined as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse of misuse of power that undermines, humiliates, denigrates or injures the individual. Bullying, unlike harassment, doesn't have a legal definition in the Equality Act.
- Bullying behavior is very similar to harassment, but it is not related to a protected characteristic
- Bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct.
- Non-verbal conduct includes digital content such as postings on social media.
Harassment and bullying are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings in UK Law.
- Harassment may include bullying behaviour, and it refers to unfavorable treatment that is related to a protected characteristic, such as age, sex, disability, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.
- The law defines it as "unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual" (Equality Act 2010)
- It can include behaviour that individuals find offensive even if it's not directed at them, and even if they do not have the relevant protected characteristics themselves.
- It can also be directed at those with a "perceived" protected characteristic.
This may look like:
- spoken or written words or abuse
- offensive emails, tweets or comments on social networking sites
- images and graffiti
- physical gestures
- facial expressions
Sexual miconduct or harassment may be defined as any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment.
It may include:
- physical contact; invasion of personal space;
- unwelcome and unwanted advances and propositions, or pressure for sexual activity;
- suggestive remarks or sounds or gestures; jokes of a sexual or prejudicial nature; innuendoes or lewd comments;
- unwanted comments on dress and appearance;
- display or circulation of pornographic or sexually suggestive pictures, objects or written material; threats;
Sexual harassment can occur between members of any gender.
A hate crime is defined by the Met Police as:
Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person's race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.
Hate crime does not require specific evidence as long as the victim believes the incident is due to prejudice of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender. You also do not personally have to perceive the incident as hate related as any other person or witness can think the incident is hate related – and that is enough for this to be recorded as such.
Hate crimes generally fall in to three categories: physical assault, verbal abuse and incitement to hatred.
Physical assault of any kind is an offence. If you’ve been a victim of physical assault you should report it. Depending on the level of the violence used, a perpetrator may be charged with common assault, actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm.
Verbal abuse, threats or name-calling can be a common and extremely unpleasant experience for minority groups.
Victims of verbal abuse are often unclear whether an offence has been committed or believe there is little they can do. However, there are laws in place to protect you from verbal abuse.
Incitement to hatred
The offence of incitement to hatred occurs when someone acts in a way that is threatening and intended to stir up hatred. That could be in words, pictures, videos, music, and includes information posted on websites.
Hate content may include:
- messages calling for violence against a specific person or group
- web pages that show pictures, videos or descriptions of violence against anyone due to their perceived differences
- chat forums where people ask other people to commit hate crimes against a specific person or group