While the COVID-19 crisis has brought out the best in many people and generally brought communities together, the lockdown has meant different things for different people.

Whilst we have all seen the joyful scenes of neighbours singing in unison from their balconies, not all of us have such a harmonious relationship with those we interact with.

For some, the lockdown has brought increased stress through neighbourhood disputes, the breakdown of relationships or, at worst, domestic violence.

In the workplace, furlough schemes, pay cuts or redundancy programmes can make for an unhappy workforce, which can also serve to increase tensions and result in disenchanted employees behaving badly towards their colleagues.

So, what can be done?

Since the beginning of lockdown, we have seen a sharp increase in the number of clients coming to us in situations where they feel threatened or harassed, whether that harassment comes via face-to-face interactions or electronic communications.

While the civil courts might not be the most obvious port of call for those suffering at the hands of a third party, potent remedies exist which can quickly put an end to the suffering. Generally speaking, the police will often only intervene in cases where there is a significant, imminent threat of physical harm. As such, many victims of less serious abuse feel like they have no remedy against the wrongdoer.

The pursuit of the appropriate civil orders is an effective way of imposing sanctions on those who behave improperly.

Harassment is widely defined in the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and includes "causing the person alarm or distress" on two or more occasions. This could include friction with neighbours, arguments with former partners or colleagues, or persistent threats or unpleasantries.

The Act recognises that everyone has the right to be free from harassment and offers a remedy in the form of a "non-harassment order" which, if granted, imposes a court order on the wrongdoer which, if breached, can result in that person being fined or even imprisoned.

Damages for distress caused by the harassment are also available under the Act.

It is important that anyone feeling helpless, threatened or harassed understands that quick and easy solutions exist which can go a long way to making the suffering stop.

In the majority of cases, matters resolve very quickly upon the appropriate legal advice being sought, so it is worth bearing in mind that the civil courts can offer a quicker and more effective means of regulating bad behaviour.