A Review of Section 264 (Criminal Harassment) of the Criminal Code of Canada
To supplement the case file data analysis this review included six case studies, which involved a detailed accounting of the events themselves and reporting of the views of the victims, police, Crown attorneys and (in a few cases) victim advocates, based on in-person interviews. The case studies involve cases from across the country, and not necessarily ones that were part of the data sample. They were selected purposefully to reflect a range of types of harassment cases, and a range of types of outcomes, and do not necessarily represent harassment cases in general. They are included in order to provide a flavour of the way the prosecution of criminal harassment cases is viewed by the various participants, and to raise issues that need to be considered in assessing the effectiveness of the new criminal harassment provisions. The cases are reported here in a way that ensures the anonymity of the people interviewed. The points of view of the accused are not represented, and no attempt is made to argue the facts of the cases themselves. Rather, the cases are presented as reported in the police accounts, and as elaborated by the victims.
Corletta met this man in late August, and they began a relationship in which they lived separately but he would stay at her apartment at times, with her and her children. After a few months together, she saw that he was becoming increasingly possessive and forceful in manner, and she decided that she would end the relationship.
"I had been in a violent relationship, and I could see what was going on. There was no way I was going to get myself involved in anything like that again!" In October she told the man that she didn't want to see him for a while, and that she was going to New York to visit her brother. He was angry about her backing out of the relationship, and accused her of going to New York to see another man. An argument ensued, at which time he pushed her head several times and threatened to throw a pot of boiling water (which was on the stove at the time) into her face.
Corletta called the police. Two officers arrived, and they removed the man from the apartment and warned him to stay away from her. No charges were laid at the time. The man's harassment of Corletta began that same afternoon, and persisted continuously until his arrest in early February the following year. The harassment consisted of telephone calls, buzzing her apartment and banging on her door, often many times in the same day and at all hours. Despite Corletta's clear insistence that the relationship was over and that he should stop bothering her, the harassment continued. On a number of occasions the police were called, but he would leave before they arrived and could not be located (he officially resided at a relative's home, but was often not there). The message he presented to her was consistent: they belonged together, and no other man could have her.
One week, after more than 100 phone calls, Corletta had her telephone number changed and unlisted. The man persisted in buzzing her apartment and banging on her apartment door whenever he could gain entrance to the building (the security man knew to watch out for him, but security was not difficult to circumvent). On one occasion soon after this, he told Corletta he had a gun and that if he saw her in the street he would "muck her up", which she understood to mean that he would harm or kill her. The police were called on that occasion, but the man could not be located. In January, the man accosted her outside the laundry room of her building, twisted her arm behind her back and insisted that she take him back. He then confined her for about an hour in an elevator (with the door open, but not allowing her to go up to her apartment or leave the elevator), letting her go finally when she insisted that she had to look after her children. At this point the harassment had become a serious impediment to Corletta's life. She was afraid to leave her apartment, and had friends do her shopping for her. One day in January, her 9-year-old daughter was confronted by the man, who threatened her with his fist and demanded their new phone number. Corletta found her daughter one day soon after, carrying a knife because she was afraid.
Corletta finally came to the conclusion that the harassment was never going to stop, and she went to a justice of the peace at the court house to obtain a restraining order. The J.P. told her that the address she had for the accused was not sufficient for a restraining order.
"The J.P. was just blasé about the whole thing, he didn't offer me any support or assistance, he basically told me there was nothing he could do." Fortunately, a woman working as a victim advocate at the court house saw Corletta crying, brought her into her office and heard her story. She called the police and asked them to come and take a statement. The police did so, agreed that it was criminal harassment, and went that day to arrest the accused.
"When I first went in to the police station after meeting (the victim advocate) the police questioned whether I was serious about following through with the charge."
The man was charged with criminal harassment, threatening and two counts of assault, and released on bail. Corletta ran into him on a bus, and the man threatened her. While he was out on bail awaiting trial, he continued to phone her but would be silent, and would buzz her apartment but not say anything.
"The restraining order didn't do much to stop the harassment, but at least it had the effect of letting him know I was serious."
About one week before the trial, Corletta met with the same victim advocate who had assisted her earlier, and received a description of the court process, how the trial would proceed, and what her role would be. She was not contacted by the Crown prior to the trial. On the day of trial, she waited at the victim assistance office for an hour or so, and then was told by the same victim advocate that the accused had pleaded guilty. Corletta was asked if she thought the man needed counselling, and she agreed that he did. The Crown never met with her to discuss sentencing recommendations. The accused was found guilty of criminal harassment, and given a suspended sentence and one year's probation, with conditions to keep the peace and be of good behaviour, to have no contact directly or indirectly with the victim or any member of her immediate family, and to not enter the grounds where she resides. All other charges were withdrawn. The issue of counselling for the accused never arose at the hearing.
Corletta was dissatisfied with the result, and still extremely angry (about one year later) with the impact this incident had had on her life.
"He should have gotten three years probation, not just one. He'll do it to someone else for sure. In a way, I wish there had been a trial so I could have said publicly what he did to me and what he's like. I only feel safe at home now. He's told me he'll never give up on me. What makes me really angry is that I don't think I'll ever really love a man again."
The position of the Crown in this case was that a probation period was reasonable given that the man had expressed remorse and had not harassed the victim since he was charged. This point is disputed clearly by Corletta in our interview with her. She did not report the subsequent harassment because she knew she had no proof. The Crown was not aware of these subsequent harassments. The fact that the man was now involved with another women was viewed as decreasing the likelihood that the harassment of Corletta would resume.
Overall, Corletta's assessment is that without the chance encounter with the victim advocate at the court house, she would still be being harassed continuously by the accused, and that she did not receive any support or assistance except from the advocate. The criminal justice process helped in that she is not now being harassed and the accused is aware of how serious she is about ending the abuse, but she is not confident that it is over for good, and she believes he will continue to behave in the same way with other women.
Ann met the person who harassed her through her work in the service industry, where part of her job was to greet people and be friendly towards them. The encounter with the man who harassed her began with eye contact and a smile. It moved to
"let's go for coffee, dinner, etc." Her response was a firm "no". She also added that she had a boyfriend, and was not interested. This went on for a year. She was then off work for over a year for unrelated reasons. Upon her return, the man approached her, apologized for his early actions, and resumed his behaviour. He said he still wanted to be friends. She said,
"We never were friends, and I don't want to be your friend." He went from being very friendly, to being extremely angry,
"that's not good enough for me, I want to be friends." At one point he leaned over the counter to sniff at her, and returned to ask her out. He sent Ann notes and gave her a Christmas present. One love note made reference to their compatibility in the "spiritual world". Ann found it eerie. She didn't know how to deal with him or the gift. She said clearly to him that she wanted him to leave her alone.
For Valentines Day, almost three years after first being harassed by him, he came by with a dozen red roses and other gifts on a silver platter. At this point she said she felt physically ill. She called her boss, but he was out of the store. She called over a clerk to witness the encounter, and said that she hoped the gifts were not for her. He became angry and upset. She told him clearly to get out of the store, and to not come back. On her way home from work Ann stopped at the police station to see if anything could be done to make him stop harassing her. She thought,
"I can't take this any more. I'm not going to wait until he gets me." He would be outside her store before six a.m., jogging or whatever, when she arrived at work, even though he didn't live anywhere near. He now knew her last name and what shifts she worked. The police told her to go home and call 911 to get a unit out. The police officers she spoke to in response to her call didn't think that they could make the charge stick. According to them, there was no real intent or threat. He was sending flowers and gifts.
Ann called someone she knew at the police station, who referred her to a special unit. This police officer was far more supportive. He told her that, given what she told him, there was sufficient evidence for a criminal harassment charge against the man. The man was arrested (through the use of undercover police officers), and underwent a psychiatric assessment to see if he was fit to stand trial.
The investigating officer was convinced that this was a strong case of criminal harassment, when he first heard the circumstances. There was no ambiguity, the complainant was consistent in making it very plain that she was not interested, and yet the man persisted. The officer arrested the accused and interviewed him. The man's statements were very bizarre (he stated he was having telepathic sex to heal his homosexuality). The investigating officer did not speak to Crown counsel during the investigation. The case was strong. The Crown and police wanted a 30-day assessment, but the judge agreed only to a 10-day assessment period. The officer's 15-year experience told him that this was a very serious case, and that the accused should be in custody because of the possibility of escalation of harassment or violence.
According to the investigating officer, it would have been much more difficult to lay a charge in this case without section 264. Ann perceived a threat, but there was nothing overtly threatening; the man was sending gifts. There was no other obvious section under which to lay a charge. It might have been possible to lay a mischief charge, or to ask for a section 810 (peace bond), or proceed under the mental health legislation, but nothing would be as successful as section 264.
The Crown counsel who dealt with the disposition of this case got the file the day before the accused returned from a psychiatric assessment, suggesting that he was fit to stand trial. The Crown counsel was pleased with the work done by the investigating officer, and thought she had a strong case of harassment. However, the accused was schizophrenic, and there was a possibility that he could be found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder. She called another Crown counsel who took cases before the Review Board, and concluded there was a risk that the accused might be given an absolute discharge. This risk was increased by the fact that the accused had expressed remorse and because there was no physical violence involved. The prosecutor thought that the case might be considered less serious by the Review Board, even though she considered it to be serious. Defence counsel agreed to a probation order, perhaps because there was always the risk that the accused could be confined indefinitely if found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.
Crown counsel asked for suspended sentence, but the accused was given a conditional discharge and three years probation, with a number of conditions, including no contact with the complainant, and a prohibition on possessing weapons. The accused also agreed to attend at a psychiatric outpatient clinic for treatment and medication. If he did not take the treatment, he would be required to see a probation officer every day. The probation order also included a probation review after three months. The Crown was satisfied with the results, up until the day we spoke with her. She had just received a call from the psychiatrist indicating that the accused was seriously mentally ill. He had been certified under the mental health legislation for a brief period, and all indications were that he was no longer taking his medication. In retrospect, maybe she should have taken her chances with the Review Board. The Probation Review was coming up in a few weeks, and she was also considering a breach of probation charge. There was no indication that the harasser was obsessing about Ann. Defence counsel thought that section 264 was effective in that the accused was intimidated by the process and it deterred him from future contact with Ann.
The officer was satisfied with the work of the Crown counsel and with the results of the case. The prosecution of this case has had a positive effect. It was the best that could be expected. The accused's behaviour could be dealt with by medication.
Ann felt disappointed and let down by the results of the court case. According to her, the probation order was
"just a piece of paper." She would have liked to see him locked up for a month or two or three, maybe in medical facilities. The police officer from the specialized unit kept her informed about the case. She talked with the Crown on the phone before the trial and after the trial. Although there was very little communication, Ann was more or less satisfied, except that she thought someone should have told her when the accused was going to court. She would have liked to have been there when he was sentenced. Victim Services was very helpful, and she still talks to the counsellor. The intervention of the criminal justice system did stop the accused's behaviourso far. Ann is not any less scared; the harasser is still there. However, she realizes that she has to educate herself:
"I will not let someone take over my life."
Ann has done a number of things to protect herself. She carries pepper spray, and has taken up boxing. She says she is now more violent herself, and has a very low tolerance level for unacceptable behaviour. It has affected her relationships. She thinks the system could be improved by providing better feedback to victims. The victim assistance program was very helpful; it showed that there are people who care. Ann would call the police again if faced with similar circumstances.
Susan was involved in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship with a man for a few years, and the relationship had been getting increasingly abusive. She had never reported the violence because, she said, in her ethno-cultural community she would have received no support - in fact she would have been shunned if she had taken the matter outside the community (to the police). Within her community, the predominant view was that once you were in a relationship with a man, it was for life regardless of how much he abused you.
In August several years ago, Susan was working in the evening at a retail outlet, and the accused came into the store and punched her unconscious. She was taken to hospital, and the police took a statement from her there. Even then, she said she would not have reported the incident, but since it was done in public she had no choice. Three or four weeks after the assault, she was contacted by a victim advocate who suggested a meeting prior to the trial. Susan took her number but did not return the call. Within a day or two the police called, asking her to come to speak to them about the case. She told them to drop the matter, and that she didn't want anything to do with the man. The police called three or four times to try to convince her, and the victim advocate called one more time. Ultimately, the man pleaded guilty of assault and was given a conditional discharge and eighteen months probation. Susan found out the result months later when she made inquiries.
The man moved out of town with his family after the trial, but Susan was forced to leave her community and move elsewhere because her family was being shunned, and because she was being treated like a pariah for having involved the police and not staying with the man. She was studying at university, but was being forcefully urged to drop her studies and return to her assailant.
Three months later, the man began to call her through friends (in contravention of the terms of his probation). He returned to the city where she lived, and they spoke several times on the phone.
"He seemed to have changed, so I agreed to talk to him a bit". He and two mutual friends showed up where she was studying and convinced her to go on a day trip with them (despite her repeated refusals to accompany them). She went, and they took pictures of the four of them together. On that day and on subsequent days, he pressed her to get back together with him, but she refused. Soon, she began noticing the man's friends, or other young men from their community, watching her at work and following her around. She was also receiving anonymous telephone threats and direct threats from the accused. On one occasion she was followed home from her place of work, and she called a mutual friend and was told that the accused had arranged for friends to follow her and watch her wherever she went. She was ready to take action at this point, and called the police.
The police came and took a report, and arrested him right away. She said she was very impressed with the way the police handled the case, and how seriously they took her complaint and her concerns. The accused was detained in jail for two weeks on a charge of failure to comply with a probation order, and then was released on bail. Susan was not informed about his release, she had to "chase down" the information herself. The police then told her that she would have to attend trial, and she was ready to do it at this point.
Immediately after the man's release on bail, the harassment began again, and the calls became extremely threatening. They were done in ways that would make it difficult for the accused and his friends to get caught. One evening, driving home from classes, Susan's car was smashed from behind on a major highway by a car containing people she recognized as friends of the accused. The accident was serious enough that her car was totalled and she was knocked unconscious. She chose not to tell the police that she knew who had caused the accident because the threats on her life had become so serious, and because they had also threatened to ruin the reputation of her sister in the community by posting notices that she was a whore.
As the man's trial for breach of probation was approaching, the harassment continued, and the man was at the same time trying to extort money from Susan, demanding that she steal from her family, sell herself, or whatever it took to get the money. Ultimately, Susan arranged to have money placed in a bank account, and she agreed to meet with the accused to get him the money, on the understanding that he would then leave town and stop bothering her (the threat on her sister's reputation appeared in our interview to have had a major impact on her choice of actionshe was convinced her sister's life would be ruined by these people). When they met, the man insisted that she stay with him for several days until the day of the trial, and he brought her to a motel room where she remained for several days. For most of the time there she said she was not physically forced to stay, but there was no doubt in her mind that there would be serious consequences if she left (for example, when he went off to get money from her account). The money could only be withdrawn in relatively small amounts, so this process took several days.
Throughout the period in the motel room, the accused demanded that she testify on his behalf, and that she return to him, but she refused. The night before the trial, he got violent, beating her and tying her to the bed. The following day, she managed through trickery to phone her father and advise him of her whereabouts. The police arrived and arrested the man. They found clothes hidden in the motel by the accused and materials used to tie her to the bed. They also had the testimony of her father about the phone call, with her showing obvious fear.
The trial on the breach of probation charge was delayed because of the new charges. The man was charged separately with forcible confinement, and went to trial on that charge first. Susan was informed of the new trial date less than a week before, and was never informed at all about how it would proceed, until the victim advocate called in the last week to meet with her. Then, the trial was delayed several times, first because the case was re-assigned to a Crown who had not had time to review it. The case was subsequently re-assigned, and Susan met with the new Crown two days before the trial, and again with the Crown and the victim advocate the night before the trial. She came to court on the trial date, but a strike at the court house resulted in the case being delayed and reassigned again. In the end, Susan had to come to court eight times, and the trial itself was split into five separate dates. The defence denied that there had been forcible confinement. The accused was found not guilty, because it was felt that there was doubt about whether the confinement had been forcible, given that she had gone to the motel without physical coercion, and because the defence brought forward evidence that she had willingly spent time with the accused prior to the incident in question (for example the photographs from the day trip she took with the accused and their mutual friends, which Susan came to believe had been set up deliberately for this purpose). Throughout the trial (until the judge ordered the courtroom emptied) the accused's friends who had assisted in the harassment sat in the courtroom and behaved in ways clearly designed to intimidate Susan. This was clear to the Crown and to the police, and is recorded in their records.
Susan met subsequently with the Crown and the police, and they decided together not to pursue the remaining charges, including criminal harassment, threatening death and failure to comply with a probation order. The Crown and police said that the decision was made primarily with a view to meeting the interests of the victim, who simply wanted the whole thing ended. There was concern that most of the evidence had already been entered into the record in the unsuccessful confinement case, and that this might prejudice the case at hand. Overall, the Crown said, it was still felt that there was ample evidence and a reasonable likelihood of conviction, but that the overall best result for the victim was to not proceed. The Crown also said that the police investigations had been thorough. The victim agreed with the assessment that it was best to drop the matter, both in the meeting with the Crown and police and at our interview with her.
Susan told us that the night after the finding of not guilty on the confinement charge, the harassment started again. This time, however, she decided not to inform the police.
"It is obvious to me that the justice system can do nothing to protect me. The judge refused to look past the defence arguments to what was really happening and what had been happening for a long time. He obviously felt no responsibility to put a stop to this behaviour. This guy puts me and my family through hell, and I have absolutely nothing to show for it!" Susan told us that she had every expectation that the harassment would continue and would escalate, and that there was a serious risk that she would be killed eventually by the accused. But, she said, she will not call the police again because the result will be of no benefit to her and it would likely worsen the harassment, both from the accused and his friends, and from the community in general.
Barry owns a service business. One day, an acquaintance came to his business and threatened him. He yelled and swore at Barry, and told him that his friends from jail were going to "get him". Later, the harasser phoned and said, "You're dead." The harasser was a customer who had been coming in off and on for years. At one point he had been told never to return. He apparently held a grudge. Barry thought his life had been threatened, and he really didn't know why. Not wanting to become a victim, he called the police. A police officer arrived within an hour, and Barry was satisfied with their approach.
By the time the police arrived, the perpetrator had already left. However, the police officer knew the harasser from previous contact. He had been in jail for harassing a woman, and there was another investigation under way on threatening and harassment charges. The police officer arrested the accused, and was of the view that he had a strong case of harassment. His past experience with the harasser added credibility to the victim's case, and made his investigation easier. He was well aware of section 264. and considered it important to proceed with the case if there was evidence of harassment. Prior to section 264, the case could have been dealt with as uttering threats. The officer did not hear what the final disposition was, and had had no contact with the accused or the victim since that time.
There were a number of other outstanding charges against the accused, so the Crown told Barry that he did not have to testify. Barry heard there had been a restraining order against the harasser, and so when he called Barry, Barry told him that he wasn't supposed to contact him. Apart from the phone call, the restraining order has been effective. Barry said his experience "went as good as it could go." However, in speaking to some female friends, he found that they didn't know how they would deal with harassment. He thought there should be more public education on the issue. He recognized that the harassment he experienced was quite different because "I am a guy". This perpetrator was mad at him personally,
"thinking I had wrecked his life by not allowing him in the (business). The women Barry had spoken to had to deal with infatuated guys who wouldn't let them go. For Barry, his was just an isolated incident, and the system cleaned it up very quickly". The incident had little impact on him.
In January of the year in question Maureen began finding notes on the windshield of her car from an anonymous person indicating that he was watching her, and suggesting, for example, that she should smile more. For a few weeks the notes were left three or four times a week, and then they started getting more frequent and more suggestive in nature. One note was a clipping of a newspaper story about a sexual assault case, with the harasser's commentaries on it. Another was a Valentine suggesting that Maureen go on holidays with the accused. Finally, in mid-February, she found a note inside her car, and she decided to call the police. At this point Maureen had no idea who the perpetrator was.
The police came and took a statement and the notes she had collected, and told her that an investigator would call her. When she received more notes, she informed the police again. In about a week, investigating officers came to meet with her. They suggested that she maintain her usual routine, and that they would monitor her car. They also suggested that she buy personal alarms for herself and her son, which she did. Over a four-month period, the police periodically monitored her car, but were unsuccessful in apprehending the harasser. Toward the end of this period, the notes indicated that the man was watching her as she read the notes, and this made Maureen extremely fearful.
In April, the police came to Maureen's apartment to inform her that the man had been identified through fingerprints on the notes (he had been arrested in the past for assault causing bodily harm and assault; the former charge had been withdrawn and the latter had been withdrawn in exchange for a peace bond). The man was a fellow resident in Maureen's apartment building who she did not know. The police said that he had been arrested, and that she would hear about the upcoming trial but that it would take a while. She was told that he had been released on a recognizance, on condition that he not contact her in any way and not go in the underground parking garage of the apartment building.
The notes stopped, but three days later she was in the underground parking garage with her son and the man addressed her - this was the first time she had seen him knowing that he was the harasser. The man apologized to her, but she viewed it as being just an excuse to confront her. In subsequent days he would stop and say "hi" to her in the apartment hallways. Maureen called the police on these occasions, feeling that he was deliberately harassing her; she said she never found out what happened as a result of these calls, but that she was never asked for a statement. She no longer called the police, even though she said the accused sent neighbours in the building down to her apartment to tell her that he was harmless, and spread rumours about her to people in the building so that she became aware of people staring at her.
"At that point I didn't know whether the charges had been dropped, or what. I didn't know if I was supposed to keep contacting police, or keeping track of information or what."
In December, Maureen was called by a victim advocate. She met with the advocate and had the court process explained to her, and some questions answered about what was going on in the case. At that time the possibility of a peace bond resolution was raised, and Maureen objected to this approach, and expressed concern for her safety, particularly in light of the post-arrest behaviour of the accused, and how it was affecting her home life. A note registering her objections was made in the case brief by the victim advocate. One week before trial in February Maureen met again with a victim advocate and made it clear she was still fearful, and wanted absolutely no contact with the accused. The victim advocate advised the Crown and the police of Maureen's concerns, and expressed her own position against a peace bond solution.
Later in February, on the way down the hall to trial, the police asked her to sign a paper agreeing to a peace bond, saying that the Crown had decided to proceed on that basis; she never met with the Crown. She said she was a bit overwhelmed by the process and didn't say anything at the time, but that she felt extremely angry about it afterwards.
"I had heard from others that peace bonds were garbage, so I didn't want that." The Crown's position was that there had been no action since the arrest (disputed by Maureen), the man had no criminal record, and there had been no violence. He viewed the file the first time on the day of trial (the common practice except in particularly serious crimes), and had spoken to the defence counsel, who indicated that the accused had already started to move out of the building, and was going to be leaving the country for a week or so. He informed defence counsel that he had clear evidencethe fingerprinted notes and a statement from the accused admitting to the harassment. To avoid trial, defence agreed to a peace bond, with a condition that the accused move out of the building. Almost three months later, the man had still not moved out. Maureen had never received a copy of the peace bond, and had never received word about what had happened at the hearing where the peace bond was supposed to have been put into force. The man was still living normally in the apartment building, still spreading rumours about Maureen, still in the laundry room etc.
"I have to avoid him! It's like I'm the criminal."
At the time of the interview (three months after the peace bond resolution was agreed to), the police were still investigating reports that the man had not yet moved, and there was speculation that he might be charged with a breach of the peace bond, but no definite action had been taken.
Overall, Maureen felt very much betrayed by the justice system.
"I wouldn't bother calling the police again. I've lost all faith. I try to teach my son to do the right thing, and to call the police if there is a problem. Now he sees (the accused) all the time, and asks me why he's still around bothering us. All I can do is say there's nothing we can do. I've lived in this building nine years, and they're not going to push me out, why should I have to move. I've already gotten rid of my car so he can't trace me." Maureen did say it felt good to have support from the victim advocates, to have someone she could trust and who made her feel like she had not done anything wrong.
The victim advocate is also extremely dissatisfied with the handling of this case.
"The Crown had no basis for concluding that the guy was harmless. Peace bonds carry no accountability with them. It was absolutely the wrong decision. (Maureen) needed a result that included an enforceable restraint, someone responsible and accountable to monitor the accused's behaviour, someone to assess the need for counselling for the accused, and a record of a guilty plea. The peace bond offers none of these. It would have been no more work to press for a guilty plea."
Cathy's former boyfriend would not leave her alone. There were numerous telephone calls at all hours of the night. He would come to her home and yell at her from the street. He called her at work, and said "I am going to take our job from you." He was trying to embarrass her. She didn't really fear for her physical safety, but she feared not knowing what he would do next. After a couple of weeks, she called 911, and two police officers came to see her. The perpetrator had just called, and he showed up after the police had arrived. The police talked to him. They tried to settle Cathy down. As far as Cathy was concerned, the police officers had no intentions of doing anything about it. They didn't write up a report. They asked Cathy, "Did you know he had a criminal record?" The implication was "you knew what you were getting into." The police officers appeared to see it as a lovers' quarrel. When they spoke to the perpetrator, he was calm and agreeable. Within ten minutes of the police leaving, the perpetrator was yelling through her window.
This was Cathy's first contact with the police, and she was not impressed with the results. She felt that they didn't know what to do, that they didn't think it was serious enough. Cathy thought she would have to be hurt for her complaint to be considered valid. She was prepared to go to the station to speak to someone about it, but they said it wasn't necessary. She expected the police officers to write up a report and to lay harassment charges. They were not prepared to take a formal statement, or to tell her when she could go down to the station. She had expected them to tell her what to do. She also expected some follow-up, and there was none. She had wanted charges laid, and for the person to be taken away, given a warning, and perhaps jail time.
She finally called someone she knew in the specialized sexual assault unit, and things improved immensely. The investigating officer made her feel safe in that he was actually doing something about the harassment. He also gave her advice, and told her to hang up if the harasser called. If the harasser showed up at Cathy's home, the investigating officer would arrest him. A few days later the harasser called Cathy, and he was arrested. He was held for a psychiatric evaluation, and his bail conditions included a no-contact order.
The investigating officer was first contacted by someone who worked in his unit and knew the victim. The police officers who had responded to the 911 call thought that a warning would be appropriate. That didn't work, so the investigating officer brought the accused into the police station, and had him sign a statement that he understood that he would be arrested if he ever contacted Cathy again. When he did, he was arrested. The officer thought he had a strong case (especially with the earlier acknowledgement), and did not need to talk to Crown counsel about it. The accused was known to police, but not to his division. The officer felt that while there was never really enough time to do everything that you want to, he was satisfied he had done what he could on the case. Section 264 was helpful, in that it is a more powerful tool, and it is not necessary to show the victim was in danger, only that she had a well-founded fear. The only other option prior to the criminal harassment section would have been for an order under section 810. A criminal harassment charge is a much more effective means of halting harassment than a peace bond. At first Crown counsel didn't think that having the harasser sign the statement was a good idea, but the officer felt that the prosecutor might have changed his mind when the accused pleaded guilty. The victim was very upset, but he has heard that she is apparently doing fine now.
Cathy preferred not to go to court. She just wanted her former boyfriend to stay away. She would also have liked him to receive some jail time, and two years probation with a no-contact order. She was prepared to go to court if that was the only way she could get a lengthy restraining order. In the end, the harasser was given a one-year probation order. Cathy would have preferred two years, in the hope that it would be sufficiently long for him to forget her and move on. She would have found the one year more acceptable if that was the result after she had gone to court. The victim services organization sent her two letters containing questionnaires. It appeared as though the forms were for victims who wanted compensation. She didn't fill them in, and the Crown didn't mention it. In fact, she found it quite bothersome to get mail about the case when she didn't even get a follow-up call from the police. She was also uncomfortable that her name was now on the records.
Cathy had support from her family and friends, and she said the situation wasn't that bad. It made her empathize with women who are really badly off, and who don't have a contact in the police department or who don't run across a sympathetic investigator. In order to protect herself, Cathy has moved, installed an alarm system, purchased two bulldogs, and acquired a parking pass for secure parking. Her number is unlisted. She is surprised that she has not heard from the accused, but she is in a much better position if he comes back. She now realizes that she has to take matters into her own hands to get things done; calling the police doesn't mean they will help. She is also confident that the investigating officer would arrest the accused if he returned to harass her. She feels that the criminal justice system worked in that the harassing behaviour stopped. She would not call 911 again in similar circumstances, as even the operator wasn't helpful. Cathy had insisted that someone come by, but the operator couldn't tell her when or who it would be. It took the police officers a long time (it seemed to Cathy like an hour, but it is not known how long it actually took) to come by.
For Cathy, it was a "bad experience", and she had a number of suggestions for improving the justice system. When a woman makes an initial contact with the police, there should be one person to act as a liaison. She should not have to put her life on the table for every officer who is on duty that night. There should be a follow-up in terms of how she was dealing with the situation. She eventually got a second copy of the probation order, after she called the court house and ordered her own copy. The Crown should take more than five minutes to talk to the complainant. Complainants should be given the option to go to court and say what they want. The accused needed counselling, as he would do the same thing to someone else. It would have been useful if someone had spoken to the accused before it got as bad as it did. But, she feels he is a person who has no fear of the police, and so maybe it wouldn't have worked. It would have been useful to Cathy to have had someone to talk to confidentially, and be told the best way to get rid of him.
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