Criminal Harassment Lawyer Toronto
Defending Criminal Harassment Charges in Toronto
Criminal harassment, or “stalking”, as it is commonly referred to, consists of repeated behaviour that has the intention of harassing, frightening, annoying, or other actions displaying obsessive and unwanted conduct directed towards another individual “without lawful authority”. For those facing harassment charges, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer to defend against these types of allegations.
- Canadian Lawyer Magazine, “When does being cheap become harassment?”
Frequently asked questions about criminal harassment:
- What must the prosecutor prove in a criminal harassment case?
- Must the prosecutor prove that the complainant suffered some harm to constitute harassment?
- What does “repeatedly” following or communicating mean?
- What type of conduct will meet the definition of criminal harassment?
- How does the court assess whether the complainant’s fear is “reasonable”?
- What is a defence to harassment?
- What are the penalties for criminal harassment?
1) It must be established that the accused has engaged any of the following conduct:
- repeatedly following the victim or someone known to the victim;
- repeatedly communicating with the victim or someone known to the victim (either directly or indirectly);
- watching or besetting a place where the victim or someone known to the victim lives, works, carries on business or “happens to be”; or
- Employing “threatening conduct” towards the victim or a member of the victim’s family.
2) It must be established that the complainant was harassed;
3) It must be established that the accused who engaged in such conduct knew that the complainant was harassed or was reckless or willfully blind as to whether the complainant was harassed;
4) It must be established that the conduct caused the complainant to fear for her safety or the safety of anyone known to her; and
5) It must be established that the complainant’s fear was, in all of the circumstances, reasonable.
The Crown need not establish that the complainant was actually threatened, or that any actual injury – either physical or mental – was caused to the complainant as a result of the accused’s conduct.
“Repeatedly” means “many times over”, specifically more than once or twice. The conduct must be overly frequent in all the circumstances. Whether the conduct is overly frequent is a matter of fact to be determined by the court on a case by case basis. There is no hard and fast rule as to what will in every case, numerically at least, constitute conduct which is overly frequent.
“Harassment” means the conduct must be unwelcome to the complainant, and includes an element of tormenting the complainant; engaging in a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome. Harassment must be something more than simply annoying someone.
The test for reasonable fear on the part of the complainant involves an inquiry into whether a reasonable person, in the particular circumstances of the complainant, would fear for his or her safety or the safety of anyone known to him or her.
In considering whether the complainant’s fears are reasonably held, the court must take into consideration the complainant’s gender, and the history and circumstances surrounding the prior relationship between the accused and the complainant.
The Criminal Code specifically requires that the harassment be without “lawful authority”. Therefore, if someone has a lawful reason to contact another person such as to enforce a civil debt or family court order etc., they would not be guilty of criminal harassment.
A person convicted of criminal harassment could face up to 10 years in prison. A conviction for criminal harassment may also lead to a criminal record, fines, probation and/or a restraining order being placed against them not to contact the victim of the harassment. In some cases, it is possible to avoid jail and a criminal record even if a person is found guilty of harassment. The nature of the offence and the personal circumstances of the offender will be considered by the judge at the sentencing hearing.
If you have recently been charged with criminal harassment, contact Daniel Brown to arrange a consultation at (416) 297-7200.