Several years ago, Bristol Grandparents Support Group, a group who supports grandparents who are unjustifiably estranged from their grandchildren, highlighted the anguish caused to grandparents when they are accused of Harassment because they have sent a birthday card, or Christmas card to their grandchildren.
Sadly, this is continuing.
Many are visited by the police.
Bristol Grandparents Support Group have many examples of this horrendous action, many grandparents never get over their treatment by the authorities, some have contemplated suicide as a result.
The police are duty bound to investigate a complaint of Harassment, but it is the way some police authorities choose to investigate. There is no consistency across the UK.
Grandparents are made to feel like criminals and feel as though they are guilty before proven to be innocent.
When they are found to be innocent and the case dropped, nothing happens to the person who has alleged Harassment.
In one recent case, grandparents had put a birthday card through the letterbox and within a few hours had the police arrive, and they were told to attend the police station where they were to be interviewed separately, and if they didn’t attend, they would be arrested. They both received individual letters each one with a crime number.
To say they were devastated would be an understatement.
Another grandparent explains his experience.
Police “harassment” warning visits are awful. A knock on the door, late at night – and there is a uniformed policeman on the doorstep, asking to have a word. You get the feeling that you have no choice so you invite them in, no matter that you may have friends around who see it all, your mind races (even though they have no right of entry – you are not under caution) – and they proceed to administer a short, sharp lecture that there has been a complaint of potential harassment and whilst this is an unofficial “friendly” warning, you are told – very firmly indeed – that if it continues you can be arrested, all your electronic equipment seized and you can go to prison.
You are speechless, terrified, feeling dreadful, you try to ask for details so you can explain but none are given, and they are not interested in your replies. In a few minutes they’ve gone, leaving you upset, angry, confused and hurt. And you have no way to respond.
You have been accused, tried, and found guilty – without any right to defend yourself. This is not the Rule of Law I recognise where you are presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Civil Rights group Liberty have been critical of this procedure for some time as they see it as a form of conviction without trial. That is what happens in third world countries, not Britain – except it does.
All because you were trying to do what 99% of the population regard as normal and essential, you were trying to have a relationship with your own child or grandchild – but someone who for whatever reason has taken a dislike to you, has found a way to use the law to bully you.
Police Warnings – intended as a fast way to nip genuine harassment in the bud – are a bully’s dream ticket.
Send someone as little as 2 pieces of anything, a gift, a postcard, email even a couple of posts they don’t like on social media and they can make a complaint of harassment. The police are duty bound to make a visit to advise the accused – after all it may be the tip of an iceberg that could lead to more serious criminal activity against the self-identified victim. All of which is fair enough, genuine harassment is nasty and completely unacceptable but people using the law like this to further their own bullying, are taking resources away from genuine cases. As far as the police are concerned, it is quick, cheap and easy to administer, it gets the case closed with none of that messy collecting evidence stuff.
I have had 2 visits like that. From the same person, who has a record of making other unfounded complaints to the police, but did they bother to verify her motives before sending an officer round to give me an ear bending?
Of course not.
The first time came several years ago because other family members had made contact with my estranged son and his wife to attempt to reason with them as to why they had suddenly cut all contact. I didn’t even know any of this had happened – yet I was the one who got blamed – the police were told I was inciting others to do my harassing for them – so I got the warning.
My protestations fell on deaf ears.
The second was a couple of years back.
We heard that my son had since got divorced but his ex was still controlling him, using threats to withhold access to his children if he made contact with us so instead, he would send covert signals that he wanted to see us but couldn’t – one year a Christmas card was left on my car’s windscreen for us to find. So, when I received an unexpected invite from him to join his Facebook Messenger I of course immediately accepted. For weeks I would send daily updates, bits of trivia or reminiscences about the good times we had before he got involved with his ex. Messenger shows he had read them, but he never replied. I said he should block me if I was bothering him but he didn’t, so I carried on. These were private messages between me and him but somehow, his ex-became aware of them – she had before had control of his accounts as part of her coercive control, and it appears still did.
She went to the police and once more I got a visit. This time I had a houseful of guests that I had to walk the officer through to find a quiet room, very embarrassing. I was told I was sending critical messages about her. Well, I had said things to him – though not badly – but these were, I thought, private messages between myself and my son. The blitzkrieg of a visit doesn’t give you time to think but I was wondering how come she was allowed to use private messages to my son to claim I was harassing her – and the police just accepted her word without question? The officer paid no attention, I must have made a wry smile at her antics which got me a telling off for appearing smug. I was told if it carried on, I wouldn’t be smiling when they searched my house and computers.
To cap it all I was told that she had “concerns” about my mental fitness to practise various activities I am involved in that are extremely strictly regulated by the police. This was very clever, it wasn’t an allegation so she could not be challenged on its accuracy but she knew that the mere raising of such concerns would trigger automatic re-vetting, at some cost to the force. It was just to make more problems for me – and I was the one doing the harassing? Needless to say, I passed – and in fact was told that such mischief making was quite common but almost impossible to stop.
This time I was not going to meekly take this.
I took legal advice – cost best part of £2000 and filed a complaint to the police for their handling of the incident, I said they had taken her word for everything and accused me of being in the wrong. I did get an apology for the officer being “overzealous”. But I am a professional, used to dealing with officials and I’m not easily scared, what if I’d been a little old lady grandmother, all alone, only thing left to her are her grandchildren but because her children got involved with a coercive partner, she has been cut off from seeing them. She isn’t a stalker; she just wants to have a relationship with her family.
To save anyone the solicitors fees I spent, there is a complaints procedure for anyone who feels the police have acted incorrectly. It is free to do on a downloadable form.
My solicitor also said that upon receiving a police visit, do not invite them in. Instead, politely explain that it is not a convenient time, but you are willing to come to the station at a mutually convenient time and that you will bring your lawyer if you have one. I was not served any paper documents (PINs) but if you are, I don’t believe you have to sign anything if you don’t want to.
I was told not to be intimidated by the police; they are executing a flawed law that has been hijacked by those who see it to bully you even more.
The conclusion of my story is a few months after the police came round, there was again a knock at the door. 9pm, dark winter night. I opened the door with the feeling of dread and a young man was standing there, I didn’t recognise him at first until he said, “Hello Dad”. He finally found the courage to retake control of his life and while things are still ongoing and far from sorted, the one thing he said he clung to was that we never gave up on him even when he couldn’t reply to us and even when his ex was trying to stop us.
A grandparent shared their story.
Our experience of a visit from the police on the grounds of harassment happened just after our son had been blocked/stopped from seeing his son, our grandson by his partner back in Feb this year. She did this over a couple of weekends and had set up scenarios to make it difficult for him to find out where they were, so that he had to flit between 2 addresses to find out where he was.
We decided to sit and wait at one address until they showed up, which was done out of desperation.
This was at 3pm
We did manage to make contact that day and although the encounter was brief, it was also emotional to observe and totally dramatized by his partner. The whole meet up lasted no more than 2 minutes, where our grandson was re-assured by his father and a gift handed over.
Later that day at around 6pm, my wife and I were at home while our son went out to the local shops.
I noticed a police car outside our house and saw 2 police officers (1 male,1 female) standing by my wife’s car (I had used it to drive my son earlier.)
I gestured to them through the window, and they made their way to our door. I opened it and said, ‘I know why you are here’ and they said, ‘do you?’
I said, ‘because of our sons’ ex-partner?’
They said ‘Yes, you and your wife have been sitting waiting outside her house, so she called us, and we are here to investigate an alleged harassment charge’
I invited them in, and we explained the situation which involved us telling the story of non-contact and call blocking etc.
They did not seem interested and said if you want to make contact you would have to go to a solicitor for the C100/C2 process to be instigated which would make it legal to see your grandson.
My wife also explained that it was me and my son in the car and not her as she was working.
The police had to be told this more than once as our sons’ partner had lied and said she had seen her. She had also told the police that she was afraid of my wife, again more drama, and false allegations.
A while later our son returned from the shops and came into the room where he was told of the allegations and then gave his side of events. He explained that his ex-partner had stopped contact for no reason and that he had tried more than once to see his son but that it was being made very difficult to do so.
Our son is a serving in the Forces and was home on leave. He explained to the police that he drives back from the South West and had done so on 2 occasions and had been messed around regarding seeing his son for no apparent reason. He had become increasingly worried for his welfare and had set out that day so he could ‘set eyes’ on him.
The police said that to do that legally he would have to also get a solicitor and start the mediation and contact ball rolling. They also issued him with verbal warning to stay away from both properties until it was legalised through the courts.
What happened that day made us feel that we now had no support from the police. They now viewed us as potential criminals and had said that any more attempts to see our grandson, if reported would mean that we would be arrested.
Our need to see our grandson was not discussed, only what J had reported, and what she had told them about our son and that she felt frightened and in fear of us.
We told them that we only cared for our grandson and nothing else, and that now we can’t see him felt that his needs were not being met either. Something that our sons’ ex-partner had used to her full advantage
By calling the police with the Harassment allegation.
A similar example.
Very early on in our struggles to maintain contact with our son and his family we had the front door slammed in our faces without explanation.
My husband pushed open the door to be told by our daughter in law that she would call the police if we didn’t leave.
Our daughter in law, having slammed the living room door on our crying grandchildren proceeded to ignore them and silently record our conversation with her mobile.
She subsequently failed to produce that conversation for solicitors during our fist court proceedings.
There would be nothing said to substantiate her claims that we were harassing them. Indeed, she will have unwittingly recorded the sounds of our grandchildren’s distress.
They were aged 2, 4 and six years old.
My husband is a retired officer and myself worked in the NHS for years.
The police appeared to understand our dilemma and indicated how difficult they recognised daughter in law was to talk with.
No charges pressed and we were grateful to have some witnesses for our difficulties in communication.
However, nothing was changed, and my husband was chastised by one of the judges in front of our daughter in law.
He felt mortified as always was keen to remain ethically engaged and maintain an open dialogue.
Both of us were regarded as the go to people at work when others had struggled with difficult situations and people.
Another grandparent says that they were accused of Harassment in a court because they left a bag of presents for their grandchildren with their son’s neighbour. They texted their son as there was no answer, our son replied that there was no one home, although it looked as though someone was in. They had driven over 100 miles to take something for our grandchild’s birthday, the neighbour had passed the car as they sat there, and she said she was happy to pass the presents on.
The stories continue.
I went down to the Xmas festival to hopefully see my grandchildren. My daughter in law was there with a male friend (I thought my son might have been there) our daughter in law saw me.
Suddenly, this male friend was standing over me.
He said “I think that you had better leave “.
I replied that I had every right to attend a public event.
He then started pushing me away and using his body as a barrier.
I told him to stop pushing me!
At this point in time, I had not seen my grandchildren for 1 year, I admit to being very emotional!
The pushing and blocking my view didn’t stop, He continued telling me to leave.
At this point I told him to stop pushing me.
The pushing and shoving continued.
This man was determined to get me to leave.
I lost my temper and lashed out.
I then left in absolute pieces.
My 7-year-old grandson kept turning trying to see me.
My granddaughter aged 4 was hiding and snicking a look.
I saw this friend on his mobile phone but didn’t realize that he was reporting me for assault.
He was a man of about 5 ft 8 ins early 40, I am 5 ft 1 in and was 65 years old.
The police called the next day and told me I had to attend the police station.
I have never been in trouble with the police.
I was horrified.
I went, and how I wish I had never gone.
I was in this little room with no window, I was then read my rights, then the tape was turned on.
The policeman was nothing more than a bully and told me that I was also being charged with hitting my daughter in law.
Also, this police officer brought up instances of events where he said that the police had been called.
Which was utter nonsense.
He knew too much about my daughter in law, which I thought was strange.
My daughter in law’s best friend is a security guard and her brother a police officer, It was unbelievable the treatment I received. I had to attend a parish hall inquiry.
When I went in the centenar, said “You will do anything to see your grandchildren “ I burst into tears.
He was lovely and understood being a very proud grandfather himself. He said that he couldn’t imagine not being able to see his grandchildren.
He dismissed the case, but put me on a month’s probation, I was not to go anywhere near the grandchildren. He said he had to do this as there were going to be people who were not going to be very happy that the case was being dropped.
Calling them spiteful and vindictive.
It was only a matter of days later when I was in town with my mother, and I saw my son and 2 grandchildren across from us as we were going into the shop.
My mom didn’t see them and continued going in to shop.
I called my little 4-year-old granddaughters name out.
She turned then ran to her father shouting “Daddy pick me up,” My son had his back to me engaged in conversation with someone. I stood waiting for my son to turn around.
He finished talking and then looked to see why my granddaughter was freaking out and wanting to be picked up.
He looked and saw me and called my grandson and his friend and calmly walked up the town.
I was beyond devastated.
While I was still in the town my husband received a phone call from the same police officer who had taken my statement, complaining about me being in the town and upsetting the children.
He asked my husband to ask me to call him back when I got home.
My husband told the police officer that he certainly would not be telling me to call him.
Also, to not call again as he would be putting in a complaint against him for Harassment.
We heard no more.
Another grandparent explains:
7 years ago, my wife and I were successful in obtaining a Court Order that allowed 3 of our grandchildren to maintain contact and enjoy a loving relationship with us. However, a small number of my immediate family members tried several ways to undermine and spoil that relationship.
3 years ago, my brother lodged 3 false allegations about me to his local police. These were transferred to my local force for investigation. Two of these false allegations were for harassment against my elderly mother in the form of malicious letters and malicious phone calls. No evidence was asked for, nor given. (Hardly surprising as none existed) The 3rd allegation was for domestic abuse without injury, by me on our son 33 years ago! Again, no evidence given, just a statement saying that it took place sometime in 1985.
My local police considered interviewing me under arrest. Their visit, and that potential arrest narrowly missed one of the monthly occasions when our 3 grandchildren were visiting us. Instead, the officer gave a verbal warning about the harassment (even though I denied it) No mention was made of the historic domestic abuse.
I subsequently made a Subject Access Request to both police forces for all the data that they held on me. Most of the information was heavily redacted. The Crime Report forms named me as an OFFENDER for the harassment and as a SUSPECT for the Domestic abuse.
Initial conversations and a solicitor’s letter to my local force only achieved partial success, however after making an official complaint this year to the County Crime & Commissioner’s Office I obtained more success. I have now received an apology for the way they handled the investigation, an assurance that they would roll out throughout the County better procedures as to how future complaints would be handled. My files have been updated to include my defence of the complaints and the Crime Report Forms for Harassment amended to name me as SUSPECT only.
The other Official Complaint I’m making to the first police force down south is ongoing. They claim to be following Home Office procedure and do not accept that they handled the matter incorrectly.
They quote :. An incident will be recorded as a crime (notifiable offence) where There is no credible evidence to the contrary. As the rules place an obligation on the Police to accept what a victim says, unless there is “credible evidence to the contrary
So even though they have no evidence at all that letters were written or phone calls made, cannot prove that I did not send letters or make phone calls. It really is quite difficult to prove a negative.
I also have requested that the statements they sent to me to be un-redacted. Their answer is:
To address your comments around disclosure of un-redacted material and having not received information “said about [you]”, I would politely just explain that it is recognised by the Information Commissioner’s Office (‘ICO’) that applicants will not always receive a copy of all data that they have requested access to. This may be because a restriction under the legislation applies in part or in full, or the type of information requested is not covered by a Subject Access Request. As you are asking for disclosure of information that would include accounts given by other individuals, despite that information potentially relating to you, this would be considered third party data.
Needless to say, I will not let the matter rest and we are in further communication.
There are so many examples of this horrendous situation:
With regards to harassment orders. In 2017 we took Christmas presents to our estranged 3 grandsons. Our daughter took exception to this, refused the presents, and called the police. They were very understanding but asked us to leave but did take the presents into the house. It took us 3 hours to drive home but on our return on the mat was a note from the police that they wanted to interview us. A couple of days later at 10.30 pm a detective came with a police officer in full protective gear. We explained the problem and again they were very understanding but said we had to sign the harassment order, which we later found was not the case.
However, over the next 18 months we had 2 further visits but now we were well versed in coping. Each time the police officers said no case to answer, and the report would go to the family court. These reports should have been our way of putting our case against all the lies that , up to then we had no way of answering. But it’s the family court and no one wants to rock the boat of the money-making cartel where judges and lawyers go back and forth many times giving out invoices like confetti.
Another grandparent states:
I took Easter gifts to my grandchildren. At the door, my daughter grabbed gifts from my grandchildren and threw them at me. This was followed by a visit from a policewoman who said she was warning me about harassment and if I were to go near or have any contact, I would be taken to a custodial suite which she assured me was not pleasant.
However, I followed this by looking at my granddaughter through the school railings during sports day. There were other parents around, but the head teacher approached me and in no uncertain terms told me to go. I asked if I could speak to him. He refused. I asked if my daughter had spoken to him, and he replied that she had and quite angrily again asked me to leave. This was followed by a phone call from a metropolitan policeman who said they had received a complaint from the head teacher and my daughter. He used the term prison where I would go if I repeated the situation. I told him that I am 85 years old and in ill health and that I would need a private cell with a toilet. He was quite serious when he said this could be arranged. I promised not to go to school but that I will fight until my dying day to see my darling grandchildren.
The first policewoman was from a special unit. She was extremely sympathetic but said she had to obey the law. I don’t think the second policeman linked with this else I would have been taken to prison.
As I’m not giving up, I may end up in prison. As far as my daughter and her husband are concerned, I have done nothing but give them my love and in all, approximately £160,000
£65,000 loaned about 9 years ago with no attempt to pay it back. I only mention this as I believe it may be behind their attitude. I have put no pressure on them in fact I have said I don’t want the money although I am a widow, my daughter is an only child so I don’t have other children to support me and if I had the money, I could afford a cleaner.
I still love my daughter although she has inflicted so much pain on me. I only live in the hope that I might see my grandchildren. They are my reason to live. Surely, harassment without any guilt is wrong.
In fourteen years of running Bristol Grandparents Support Group, I have heard many more stories just like those above.
A law that is there for the safety of those being genuinely harassed has been a vehicle for those who want to inflict as much grief as they can against safe, loving grandparents who just want to be able to have a loving and caring relationship with their grandchildren.
In criminal cases we are innocent until proven guilty, in private family law cases we are guilty until proven innocent, all too often grandparents can’t prove their innocence.