Weinstein case is a ‘watershed for sexual harassment victims’

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Detective Chief Inspector Alison Fossey said that although there was no specific law against sexual harassment, such as non-physical sexual advances and comments, she stressed that prosecutors had powers to purse offenders using other legislation.

And the detective – who was speaking out after the New York Times reported earlier this month that more than a dozen women, many involved in the film industry, had made allegations from sexual harassment to rape against Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein – said even if behaviour did not cross the criminal boundary, there were other avenues for victims to pursue.

A recent BBC survey found that half of British women and a fifth of men have been sexually harassed at work or a place of study. Of the women who said they had been harassed, 63 per cent said they didn’t report it to anyone, and 79 per cent of the male victims kept it to themselves.

‘It is a bit like Jimmy Savile and Operation Yewtree, it’s a bit of a watershed moment for sexual harassment,’ Det Chief Insp Fossey said.

Since the New York Times report on Mr Weinstein, dozens more women, including high-profile actresses, have made further allegations. Police in London and New York are investigating. Mr Weinstein denies all allegations of non-consensual sex.

The allegations led to the social media hashtag #MeToo which encouraged people to share their experiences of sexual harassment at work.

Det Chief Insp Fossey said: ‘There is a whole complex web of reasons as to why people do not report sexual harassment to us or their employers. So from that point of view the whole thing that is going on in America is a good thing because it gets the subject out there and on the agenda.’

Prosecutors have three main laws they can use to pursue sexual harassment offenders; the Telecommunications Law 2002 for text or social media messages and the Crime (Disorderly Conduct and Harassment) Law 2008 if there is a continued course of conduct. If the harassment stretches to unwanted physical advances, an offender can be brought to justice using the Sexual Offences Law 2007.

Det Chief Insp Fossey added: ‘If it is a one-off case we can also serve a harassment notice on a person. We would get the person in, speak to them, let them know their conduct was not wanted and physically hand them a warning notice.

‘Victims can also speak to their employers, seek civil redress through the Jersey Employment Tribunal or speak to JACS [the Jersey Advisory and Conciliation Service].’

‘We deal with lots of harassment cases, mainly involving relationship breakdowns but we never see anything in the workplace but that does not mean it is not happening.’

For information and advice on sexual harassment in the workplace visit the JACS website at jacs.org.je.

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