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TORONTO CRIMINAL HARASSMENT LAWYER

Criminal harassment, or “stalking”, as it is commonly referred to, consists of any of the following things, if done without lawful authority: 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. Furthermore, there must be knowledge or recklessness as to whether the victim is harassed by the conduct in question. Finally, it is a requisite element of the offence that the victim was reasonably caused to fear for his or her safety, or the safety of someone known to him or her, as a result of the conduct. The Firm has specialized in assisting victims of harassment from ex-lovers, specifically extortion and sex tape scandals.

Allegations of criminal harassment are serious and carry a particularly adverse stigma. These allegations are very fact specific, we have experience defending a range of criminal harassment charges. The Criminal Law Group specializes in handling allegations of Criminal Harassment between ex-lovers and those that arise at work or other regular social gatherings. In its R. v. M.S. [2014], it secured a full withdrawal of all allegations of Criminal Harassment advanced by the ex-lover of the accused and her mother. In its new R. v. L.M. [2015], the Criminal Law Group defended the accused in a Same-Sex relationship who was falsely accused of Criminal Harassment by an ex-military personnel with a Law Degree, all charges were withdrawn. The Firm has successfully defended a number of Criminal Harassment allegations in the context of Domestic Relationships.

It it’s R. v. A.C. [2016], the Firm secured a withdrawal of all counts of Criminal Harassment where the accused sent over 300 emails to his spouse after the dissolution of their relationship. The Firm further defended a TTC Driver who was charged with Criminal Harassment for repeatedly following his spouse on the streetcar in its R. v. C.S. [2013]. The Firm has handled a number of Criminal Harassment charges which evolve into Extortion, specifically in the context of marital affairs or other common law relationships. The Firm has even been retained by members of the Catholic Church to resolve internal disputes and allegations with respect to harassment between its members. In the Firm’s R. v. A.C. [2016], it secured a withdrawal of all charges of Criminal Harassment against a Hollywood Actor charged with sending over 500 emails and 100 voicemails to the complainant.

The Firm has acted for a number of employees of the City of Toronto and Government of Ontario during internal investigations of harassment by upper levels of management and co-workers, specifically related to incidents on the job. The Criminal Law Group has also handled allegations of Criminal Harassment in the Church, including disputes between Ushers during Mass.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Criminal Harassment?
What Does the Crown Have to Prove for a Conviction of Criminal Harassment?
What are some Defences to Criminal Harassment?
What is a Peace Bond?
What is the difference between a s.810 Peace Bond and a Common Law Peace Bond?
What is a Restraining Order?
What are the Penalties for a Conviction of Criminal Harassment?
What is the Difference between Criminal Harassment and an Assault?

What is Criminal Harassment?

Section 264 of the Criminal Code outlines that it is an offence to harass another person or to act recklessly as to whether another person is harassed. Criminal harassment is commonly referred to as “stalking.” It consists of repeated, unwanted behaviour directed at a specific individual or someone that he or she knows. There are four types of conduct that constitute criminal harassment if they cause that other person to reasonably fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them. The four types of conduct that can constitute criminal harassment are:

  • Repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them;
  • Repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone known to them;
  • 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
  • Engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family.

Therefore, intentionally or recklessly engaging in any of the above listed behaviours will constitute criminal harassment if the actions cause another person to reasonably fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.

What Does the Crown Have to Prove for a Conviction of Criminal Harassment?

To secure a conviction for criminal harassment the Crown must prove the accused committed the harassing act and that he or she did so with intention or recklessly. Specifically, the Crown must prove the following elements;

  • The accused engaged in one of the four conducts listed under Section 264(2)(a), (b), (c) or (d);
  • The complainant was harassed by the conduct;
  • The accused knew the complainant was harassed or was reckless as to whether the complainant was harassed;
  • The accused’s conduct caused the complainant to fear for her safety or the safety of anyone known to her;
  • The complainant’s fear was reasonable.

If the Crown can prove all of the above elements beyond a reasonable doubt, then an accused person will be convicted of criminal harassment.

What are some Defences to Criminal Harassment?

The availability of criminal defences will vary depending on the circumstances of the offence and the characteristics of the offender.

One common defence to an allegation of criminal harassment is to argue that the behaviour was conducted with lawful authority. Section 264(2) specifies that criminal harassment charges can only arise if an individual engages in one of the listed acts without lawful authority. Therefore, to defend a defence of criminal harassment an accused could argue that he or she had lawful authority to contact the other person. For example, the attempts to contact were to enforce a court order. If an individual can show he or she had lawful authority then the conduct will not constitute criminal harassment.

However, the circumstances of each case are different and it is important to canvas the relevant facts with a lawyer to determine what defence(s) could be available to you.

What is a Peace Bond?

A peace bond is a court order requiring the Defendant to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for a specified period of time. To be of good behaviour, a person cannot be charged with a criminal offence while subject to a peace bond. It is also possible that other conditions will be attached to this order. For example, a peace bond may set out that the Defendant is prohibited from contacting or going near the home of the complainant; or it may prohibit the Defendant from possessing any firearms, ammunition or explosives.

A peace bond is similar to a recognizance of bail, in that it sets out that a Defendant must follow certain conditions. It also often requires a Defendant to pledge an amount of money to the court. By pledging money, the person is agreeing that if they break one or more of the conditions of the peace bond, than he or she may have to pay money to the court.

Peace bonds can be ordered pursuant to either Section 810 of the Criminal Code or by a justice or judge exercising the court’s common law jurisdiction to bind a party over to keep the peace.

Section 810 of the Criminal Code sets out that a peace bond may be ordered when an information is laid before a justice or on behalf of any person who fears on reasonable grounds that another person will cause personal injury to him or her or to his or her spouse or common-law partner or child or will damage his or her property.

It is possible that with some minor assault cases the Crown might withdraw the charge if the Defendant enters into a peace bond. However, the Crown Policy Manual sets out that in the context of domestic assaults, charges will only be withdrawn in “exceptional circumstances.”

It is important to note that agreeing to enter into a peace bond does not give you a criminal record. There is no conviction or finding of guilt. However, a peace bond may show up on a criminal record check when it is active. Additionally, the breach of a Section 810 peace bond may result in a criminal record.

What is the difference between a s.810 Peace Bond and a Common Law Peace Bond?

A common law peace bond is issued pursuant to the court’s common law jurisdiction. Comparatively, a Section 810 peace bond is grounded in the statutory language of the Criminal Code.

The main difference between the two is that the Section 810 peace bond is limited by the wording of the statute. It can only be issued for a maximum of one year. It is issued in situations where a person fears on reasonable grounds that another person will cause personal injury to himself or his spouse, common-law partner or child, or will cause damage to his property. Section 810 has a number of statutory conditions that are attached to it. Section 811 of the Criminal Code clearly contemplates the consequences when a Section 810 peace bond is breached.

If a court decides to issue a common law peace bond there are no time limitations on the duration of the peace bond. Furthermore, it is not restricted by statutory language or conditions, but rather is issued pursuant to the court’s jurisdiction to bind a party to keep the peace.

What is a Restraining Order?

A restraining order is a legal order from the family court system. It states that a person cannot do certain things, like contact you or come near you or your children. These orders are not part of the criminal law system.

The purpose of a restraining order is to prevent your partner or former partner from harassing you or your children. In Ontario you can obtain a restraining order against a person you are or were married to; or a partner or former partner that you have lived with. It does not matter how long you lived with the person.

If a person disobeys the terms of a restraining order, it is possible they could face criminal charges.

What are the Penalties for a Conviction of Criminal Harassment?

Penalties for a conviction of criminal harassment will vary depending on the specific circumstances of the offence, the characteristics of the offender and the complainant and the presence of aggravating or mitigating factors.

Section 264(3) of the Criminal Code sets out that a conviction for criminal harassment can result in up to ten years imprisonment if the Crown proceeds by indictment.

What is the Difference between Criminal Harassment and an Assault?

The main difference between assault and criminal harassment is that criminal harassment prohibits deliberate conduct that causes psychological harm to others, like repeatedly following or communicating with a person. Comparatively, assault is defined by a clear physical outcome or direct threat of physical harm, like punching someone or holding your fist and making a threatening gesture. The two offences target different kinds of threats – one being psychological and the other being physical harm.

Another difference is apparent in sentencing for these offences. Criminal harassment is punishable by up to ten years imprisonment when the Crown proceeds by indictment, whereas assault is punishable by up to five years when the Crown proceeds by indictment.

416-DEFENCE | 416-333-3623