Currently, there is no dedicated law for stalking and harassment incidents in Taiwan. In spite of the provisions of the Social Order Maintenance Act, the Sexual Harassment Prevention Act, the Domestic Violence Prevention Act, the Criminal Code, etc., still they are not laws targeting stalking and harassment acts and have issues such as insufficient penalties, a lack of timeliness, hardly applicable criteria, etc. After five years of deliberation and a dozen of drafts, the Legislative Yuan finally adopted the Executive Yuan version of the draft “Stalking and Harassment Prevention Law” (hereinafter, the “Law”) on November 19, 2021. The Law was promulgated on December 1 and will formally go into effect on June 1, 2022. The Law has the following five major highlights:
1. Definition of stalking and harassment acts(Article 3)
The Law defines a stalking and harassment act as one of the specific acts repeated and continually engaged towards specific individuals against their will and related to sex or gender via a person, vehicle, tool, equipment, electronic communications, the Internet, or any other means so that the individuals are intimidated to the extent of undermining their daily life or social activities. The Law also provides for eight specific types of stalking and harassment, including surveillance, stalking, discrimination and abasement, communication harassment, improper pursuit, mailing of objects, impairment to reputation, and fraudulent use of personal information.
2. Timely investigation, written warnings, and proper protective measures by police agencies(Article 4)
When accepting a stalking and harassment case, a police agency shall conduct a timely investigation and prepare written records. If the investigation shows a suspected stalking and harassment offense, a police agency shall, ex officio or at the victim’s request, issue a written warning to the perpetrator and take other proper measures to protect the victim when necessary. If the perpetrators or the victims are dissatisfied with the issuance or non-issuance of a written warning by the police agency, they may, within ten days upon receipt of the decision, raise their opposition to the superior police agency via the original police agency.
3. Matters regarding the applications, trial, and enforcement procedure related to the court’s issuance of a protection order as well as the contents of a protection order (Articles 5 through 17)
If a perpetrator engages in a stalking and harassment act again within two years after the issuance of a written warning, the victim may apply to the court for a protection order. In addition, the prosecutor or police agency may also ex officio apply to the court for a protection order and is not constrained by the aforementioned restriction that the perpetrator should have engaged in a stalking and harassment act again in two years. The trial of a protection order case is closed to the public and may be examined separately and, if necessary, conducts outside the courtroom or by video. Furthermore, the relevant documents that must be disclosed shall not reveal information sufficient to identify the victim. The term of a protection order shall be two years at most, and if it is extended, each extension shall not exceed two years. A stalking and harassment protection order issued by a foreign court may be enforced if recognized by a Taiwan court via its ruling.
4. Criminal penalties for perpetrators of stalking and harassment and their violation of a court protection order (Articles 18 and 19)
A stalking and harassment offense is actionable only upon complaint. A perpetrator of stalking and harassment will be penalized with imprisonment of up to one year, detention, or, in lieu thereof or in addition thereto, a fine of up to NT$100,000 with the penalties intensified in case of stalking and harassment with a weapon or any other dangerous goods. If a court protection order is breached, imprisonment of up to three years, detention, or, in lieu thereof or in addition thereto, a fine of up to NT$300,000 will be imposed.
5. In-camera court trial of stalking and harassment cases with permitted detention(Articles 20 and 21)
A court trial of a stalking and harassment offense and an offense of violating a stalking and harassment protection order is closed to the public. If the judge believes, as a result of examination, that the perpetrator is highly suspicious and his/her detention is necessary since it is sufficient to determine that the perpetrator is likely to repeatedly commit the offense, the perpetrator may be detained.
Teresa Huang, Partner, Lee Tsai & Partners