Threatening or Abusive Behaviour

The offence of threatening or abusive behaviour

Section 2 of the Act creates a new offence of threatening or abusive behaviour or ‘TAB’. The offence of threatening or abusive behaviour is designed to be used in circumstances where there is either a one off incident or a course of behaviour where it cannot be shown that there is substantial distress as an impact for the victim. 

It is anticipated that this offence would still consist of the elements of the stalking offence but with a lower threshold in respect of the expected impact to the victim(s).

The TAB offence may be committed when three conditions are met - all three conditions must be met for the offence to be complete.

A commits this offence if:

  • A behaves in a threatening or abusive manner; and
  • The behaviour would be likely to cause a reasonable person to suffer fear or alarm; and
  • A intends by the behaviour to cause fear or alarm or is reckless as to whether the behaviour causes fear or alarm.

This offence applies to behaviour of any kind including things said or otherwise communicated, as well as things done. Behaviour can also consist of a single act (e.g. shouting and swearing aggressively during an argument) or a course of conduct (e.g. sending threatening or abusive emails over a course of days or weeks).

There is a vast range of actions that could be threatening or abusive in any given context. The behaviour may be either threatening or abusive, and does not need to be both.

The court will determine as a question of fact what constitutes a ‘threat’ or ‘abuse’ depending on the particular circumstances of the case.


Section 2(2) of the Act creates a statutory defence for a person charged with this offence to show that the behaviour was reasonable in the particular circumstances.

Examples of where threatening or abusive behaviour could be reasonable may include where it is used as a form of self-defence or in response to extreme provocation.


A person guilty of an offence under section 2 is liable:

  • on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years and/or fine.
  • on conviction in summary proceedings to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months and/or fine.

Further reading

For more information, please see the following pages: