What is harassment?
Criminal harassment, or “stalking” as it is commonly known, consists of repeated or ongoing behaviour that has the intention of harassing, frightening, annoying or other actions that display unwanted and/or obsessive conduct directed towards another individual. Often, this type of behaviour develops out of an intimate relationship that has broken down.
Section 264 of the Criminal Code provides that no person, 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.
The prohibited conduct in subsection (2) consists of:
- 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.
Intentionally or recklessly engaging in any of the listed behaviours constitutes criminal harassment if the behaviour causes the other person to reasonably fear for their safety or safety of anyone known to them.
In order to be convicted of criminal harassment, the Crown Prosecutor must prove the following:
- identity of accused
- date and time of incident
- jurisdiction (city and province)
- the accused has engaged in the repeated or obsessive conduct.
- the complainant was harassed by the conduct.
- the accused, who engaged in such conduct, knew that the complainant was harassed or was reckless or wilfully blind as to whether the complainant was harassed;
- the conduct caused the complainant to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them; and
- the complainant’s fear was, in all the circumstances, reasonable.
The harassing or obsessive behaviour can take on many forms including following, texting, phone calls, emails and through various social media accounts.