Securing Safety, Mental Health and Wellbeing for All




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Bullying and the Law


Many types of behaviour that could be described as bullying are covered by legislation and can be prosecuted as criminal offences under a number of acts of Parliament, for example:

  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997

  • Malicious Communications Act 1988

  • Communications Act 2003

  • Public Order Act 1986

  • The Equality Act 2010 which establishes school's duties to prevent discrimination, harrassment and vicimisation with

        reference to the following 'protected characteristics': age, being or becoming a transexual person, being married or

        in a civil partnership, being pregnant or having a child, disability, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation'


DfE guidance, updated on in July 2017, states that ‘if school staff feel that an offence may have been committed they should seek assistance from the police. For example, under the Malicious Communication Act 1988, any person who sends an electronic communication which conveys a message which is indecent or grossly offensive, a threat, or information which is false and known or believed to be false by the sender, is guilty of an offence if their purpose in sending it was to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient.

N&P Beam


Bullying in itself is not a specific criminal offence in the UK, however the 2002 Education Act Section 175 placed a requirement on schools to safeguard and promote children’s well-being, as well as their academic achievement.  'Keeping Children Safe in Schools', the statutory guidance under Section 175 issued in 2016 and followed by a number of updates, specifically covers heath, safety and bullying in addition to child protection.


The Education and Inspections Act in 2006 gave headteachers the power to regulate the behaviour of pupils outside of school; this extends to cyber-bullying behaviour. The Education Act 2011 gives additional powers to screen, search for and confiscate electronic devices, including the power to delete certain content (see DfE Guidance for conditions for these powers.