In today’s social media driven society, stalking is a growing concern for many people. We share a lot of personal information about ourselves on social media sites that others can often easily access without our permission. Aside from being stalked online through social media accounts, one could exhibit criminal harassment behaviours if they:
- Make another person or their friends and family feel threatened.
- Continuously watch the person at their home or place of employment.
- Constantly makes efforts to follow another person, their friends and family members.
- Makes efforts to contact the person in any manner excessively, even after being asked to stop.
- Sends gifts, flowers, cards, or other unwanted communications.
The Criminal Code of Canada specifically defines Criminal Harassment as follows:
264 (1) No person shall, without lawful authority and knowing that another person is harassed or recklessly as to whether the other person is harassed, engage in conduct referred to in subsection (2) that causes that other person reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.
(2) The conduct mentioned in subsection (1) consists of
(a) repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them;
(b) repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone known to them;
(c) besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries on business or happens to be; or
(d) engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family.
Generally, a person is only charged with criminal harassment after engaging in unwanted behaviour repeatedly: if they only engage in an unwanted behaviour once and then stop because they were asked to do so, it will not be considered criminal harassment.
To illustrate, you really like someone at a retail store you frequently shop at. You decide to ask the person out and bring them flowers. Unfortunately, they decline your request. Since the individual rejected your request to go out, you never ask him/her again. There will be no case for criminal harassment, if you continue to shop at that store, as long as you don’t engage in harassing behaviours.
On the other hand, if after being rejected, you continue to ask the person out each time you see the person at work, follow him/her home from work, look up and contact him/her on social media, you may very likely be found to be engaging in behaviours that could be considered stalking and criminal harassment, especially if the person starts to feel threatened and has asked you repeatedly to stop the behaviours.
That being said, there are exceptions to the general rule that the unwanted harassing behaviour has to be done repeatedly. That is, it is possible for a criminal harassment charge to be laid after a “single occurrence”. Again, this blog does not constitute legal advice. This is a very specific area of law and should you find yourself charged with criminal harassment or another related offence, you need an experienced Toronto criminal defence lawyer like Brian Ross to help fight the charges. There are various defences that may apply to your case. Call my office at (416) 658-5855 to schedule a consultation now!