Is Verbal Abuse a Crime? The Law Explained

  • Posted on
Is Verbal Abuse a Crime? The Law Explained

Verbal abuse involves using hurtful words, threats, or offensive language to harm or harass someone. This behaviour can have severe consequences not only for the victim but for the abuser too.

The laws surrounding verbal abuse can be misunderstood, and a common question regarding this topic is whether verbal abuse is a crime.

In this blog post, we'll explore the basics of verbal abuse, its legal implications, and how you can protect your rights. We'll also explain how you can seek help if you or someone you know is a victim of verbal abuse or is being incorrectly accused.


What is Verbal Abuse?

Verbal abuse is a form of behaviour that involves using harmful or offensive words, language, or gestures to insult, belittle, threaten, or harass another person.

This type of abuse is treated on a case-by-case basis and considers the context of the situation. Laws can change depending on the country in which an offence has taken place; therefore, it is best to consult a local legal expert for tailored advice.

This will help to clear up any confusion, avoid overcomplication, and help you feel supported. Verbal abuse can present itself in many forms, and we will now explore some related laws.


Criminal Laws

The police conduct investigations when they receive reports of criminal accusations. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and police officers make the final decisions about any related prosecution.

The Public Order Act of 1994's Section 4A addresses planned acts of harassment, alarm, or distress. This is a violation of public order, which includes acts of violence, physical assault and intimidation against a member of the public.

In many jurisdictions, certain forms of verbal abuse can be considered a crime. The following sections explore how harassment, assault, stalking, hate speech, and domestic violence that involve verbal abuse can be a crime. We'll also explain how verbal abuse may also be pursued through a civil lawsuit.



Harassment is legally defined as a repeated pattern of harmful behaviour towards another person, protected under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

While sexual harassment is a common threat, harassment doesn’t have to have a sexual component to it. Harassment can include excessive, unwanted phone calls, meetings, emails, or mobile messaging.

Verbal harassment involves distressing spoken language, such as sexual or offensive comments, inappropriate jokes, teasing, or sexually related questions. These comments often cause emotional distress and feelings of intimidation. Harassment can occur at any point in a person’s personal or professional life.

Workplaces often have policies to address harassment, including verbal abuse, with disciplinary consequences for not abiding by them. If you're experiencing any form of harassment, seeking help and advice is essential.



Verbal assault is a form of hate crime. Because of this, some verbal abuse threats, especially if they include specific threats of physical harm, can lead to assault charges.

If this is the case, an investigation and criminal trial will be conducted to find out whether the offender is guilty. It may mean they end up having to spend time in jail. If you have been a victim of verbal assault and you wish to pursue the matter further, it is advised to seek help from a professional solicitor.



Repeated and threatening verbal abuse can sometimes be considered a form of stalking, which is a criminal offence in many places.

Stalking becomes a crime when it involves actions like following someone, attempting to contact them, or posting statements about them in a public forum. It can also include monitoring their online activity, repeatedly following them, spying on them, or interfering with their lives.


Hate Speech Laws

Many countries have laws against hate speech, including the UK. Hate speech includes verbal abuse targeted at a person or group based on attributes such as race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

Hate speech laws vary widely, but they aim to protect individuals and groups from discrimination and harm. The laws in England and Wales are set by the police and the CPS.


Domestic Violence Laws

These laws aim to provide a safe and protective legal framework for victims who experience violence within a domestic relationship. It offers them the necessary resources and legal recourse to break free from abusive situations.

While a person in this situation may feel alone, there are people, support organisations, and professionals who can help. Anyone facing domestic verbal abuse must understand their rights and seek assistance promptly to ensure their safety and well-being.

Civil Lawsuits

Even when verbal abuse doesn't lead to criminal charges, victims may have the option to pursue civil lawsuits. This is for any damages the abuse may have resulted in, for example, emotional distress, reputational damage, or other harm.


What Should I Do If I Have Been Wrongly Convicted Of Verbal Abuse?

If you are convicted of committing a crime that involves verbal abuse, the length of the sentence you receive will depend on the “grading” of the offence.

In England and Wales, the severity of the sentence for verbal abuse-related crimes depends on many factors, such as whether it is a repeat or first-time offence.

Being falsely charged with a hate crime and having a criminal record can seriously limit your future opportunities and mental health. Therefore, it is better to fight for justice if you are innocent.


How Can a Criminal Law Solicitor in the UK Help Me?

If you are facing an accusation of verbal abuse, our Criminal Law team at Bell Lamb & Joynson is equipped with the expertise and experience to help you in a variety of ways, including:

  • They can pursue your case to find key evidence rather than rely solely on the evidence provided by the prosecution.
  • They will examine the facts regarding the incident and your arrest to look for any legal and factual defences.
  • They will explore your case with you so that you are aware of your legal choices, possible results, and what to anticipate at each level of the legal process.
  • They will fight for the best possible outcome for you.
  • They will support your defence during your trial.
  • When necessary, they will negotiate with authorities on your behalf to have your charges reduced or dropped.
  • They will question the prosecution's case in court by making requests to exclude evidence or have the case dismissed.


Understand Your Rights With Bell Lamb & Joynson Solicitors

Verbal abuse is a form of hate crime and can have legal consequences. The law surrounding verbal abuse does vary, but generally, it aims to protect individuals from harassment, discrimination, and emotional harm.

Understanding your rights in cases of verbal abuse is essential. While freedom of speech protects opinion expression, it has limitations regarding hate speech, threats, or incitement to violence.

At Bell Lamb & Johnson, we are experts in criminal law and our solicitors can help you fight for justice on your behalf. Our legal experts can provide guidance and support, especially for wrongful accusations. Stay informed about evolving laws in England and Wales by consulting with our legal experts.

By raising awareness and understanding of the legal implications of verbal abuse, we can work towards a safer and more respectful society where everyone's rights are protected. Seek help today by calling 03444124348 or by emailing us at