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What the law says about bullying

Photo: Some types of bullying are illegal

Every school must have measures in place to deal with all forms of bullying. You can ask to see their anti-bullying policy for more information.

Bullying in itself is not a specific criminal offence in the UK, but some types of bullying are illegal.

This includes bullying that involves:

  • violence or assault
  • theft
  • harassment and intimidation
  • threatening behaviour
  • sending abusive emails or text messages
  • hate crime.

More information about bullying and the law can be found on the Anti-Bullying Alliance website.

Should I involve the police?

This is what the Metropolitan Police say about involving the police in cases of bullying.

Can the police come into school or college and arrest bullies?

This doesn’t usually happen because most schools have measures in place to tackle bullying early. If they work together, pupils, teachers and parents are much better placed to prevent bullying than the police.

What if the bullying is serious and involves physical assault?

In some circumstances, the school may call in the police. This is generally as a last resort or because something very serious has happened.

If a young person is continually getting involved in bullying behaviour including violence, theft or harassment, they may be given an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO).

Anyone – a teacher, parent or pupil – can make a complaint about bullying to the police if they feel it’s serious. In most cases, we recommend you try talking to your teachers or another responsible adult first.

The Equality Act 2010 in England, Scotland and Wales makes it illegal to discriminate against, harass or victimise a person because of their disability. The Public Sector Equality Duty, which came into force in April 2011, requires public bodies (local authorities and schools) to have due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited under the Equality Act
  • advance equality of opportunity between disabled people and non-disabled people
  • foster good relations between disabled and non-disabled people.

This means that consideration of equality issues must influence local authorities and schools when they make decisions about how they act as a responsible body, how they develop, evaluate and review policy and how they design, deliver and evaluate services.

For more detailed information on the Equality Act, download the NDCS factsheet Discrimination and your deaf child's rights: How the Equality Act protects deaf children.

You can find more information about the Equality Act in our Parenting and Family Life section.

These resources all focus on school settings, but the information and advice they offer applies to any situation your child might find themselves in. You can report online abuse to the CEOP.

Anti-Bullying Alliance
A coalition of organisations and individuals working together to stop bullying and create safe environments in which children and young people can live, grow, play and learn. They provide advice and expertise in relation to all forms of bullying between children and young people.

Bullies Out (Wales)
Information for children, young people and adults in Wales.

Bullying UK
Provides advice on bullying. Part of the Family Lives charity.

CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection)
Information and advice about internet safety for parents, children and young people.

Helpline for children offering emotional support and counselling on any issue, including bullying.

Helpline: 0800 1111 (24 hours). Can also contact by email or online chat.

National charity for families with disabled children. Offers support, information and advice on topics including bullying.

Helpline: 0808 808 3555

Provides information for professionals, parents and young people on issues such as social networking and cyberbullying.

Equality Commission for Northern Ireland
Information and guidance on discrimination and human rights issues, including disability discrimination.

Information Advice and Support Services
Formerly known as Parent Partnership Services, these services offer advice and support to parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities.

UK charity established specifically to prevent bullying and child sexual abuse.

Anti-Bullying Helpline for Parents: 08451 205 204

Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum (NIABF)
A coalition of organisations working together to end bullying of children and young people.

NSPCC (England, Scotland and Northern Ireland)

Provides information, advice and counselling to anyone concerned about a child’s safety. Helpline: 0808 800 5000 Text: 88858

[email protected]

Respect Me (Scotland)
Scotland’s anti-bullying service.

Helpline: 0844 800 8600

Charity representing the needs of siblings of disabled people.

Latest information on websites, mobiles and new technology. Website created for young people by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

UK Safer Internet Centre
For e-safety tips, advice and resources to help children and young people stay safe on the internet.