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Online Harassment Can Link You Straight to Jail

Harassment, often called stalking, was added to the Criminal Code of Canada in 1993 to protect the physical and emotional safety of those who find themselves the subject of ongoing and unwanted threatening or disturbing behavior.  Technology has come a long way since then, and while stalkers continue to make repeated telephone calls, physically follow or watch someone, or show up unwanted at homes or offices, the Internet has facilitated new forms of harassment that can do as much harm to the victims and result in as much prison time for the perpetrators as physical stalking.

“Cyberstalking” can take many forms, the most common of which are threatening and repeated e-mails or texts, publishing threatening or hurtful information publicly on the Internet or hacking into someone else’s computer. Sometimes, the stalker knows the victim while in other situations the anonymity of the Internet and the access to personal information it provides creates new opportunities for strangers to harass unknown victims. Online harassment doesn’t just cause victims fear and anxiety; a 2010 Annual Report of Ontario’s Domestic Violence Death Review Committee found increasing evidence that information and communication technologies are being used to harass, stalk and abuse domestic homicide victims prior to their deaths.

Though the Internet was in in its infancy when harassment was added to the Criminal Code, Crown Prosecutors have consistently and successfully brought harassment charges against cyberstalkers under the same standards and provisions applied to physical stalkers. So long as the stalker has knowledge that his or her conduct is harassing another person and that the person has a reasonable fear for his or her safety, key elements of harassment under the Criminal Code, they can be found guilty of harassment and be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

The Internet may make it easier to harass or stalk someone, but if you are charged with harassment because of activities you engaged in online or through using related technology, your defence is anything but simple. Given the evolving and complicated legal issues, and considering the risks to your future and your freedom that would come from a harassment conviction, it is essential that you contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer at the earliest opportunity.

The legal team of Hobson & Reeve, Barristers has over 60 years of collective criminal law experience. Our lawyers have worked hard to establish themselves as formidable litigators in court as well as efficient negotiators on matters such as plea bargains. Both David Hobson and Dennis Reeve have served as Crown prosecutors; this experience gives them invaluable insight into each case’s unique strengths and weaknesses and helps them choose the best strategies for protecting their clients. They are dedicated to impeccable preparation, fierce yet professional advocacy, and providing the best possible defence for each client. Hobson & Reeve look forward to bringing their decades of legal experience to your case, protecting your rights, and providing the advice and representation you need.

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