OCA ruling signals strong stance on harassment
A recent Ontario Court of Appeal ruling sends the important message that psychological and emotional attacks can be as damaging as physical assaults, says Toronto criminal lawyer Jamie Yoon.
The court recently upheld a sentence of five and a half years in the case of a man who subjected a woman he had recently met to harassing phone calls and letters, including two sent while he was in jail awaiting trial, the Globe and Mail reports. Read Globe and Mail
The victim “suffered mentally and physically as a result of the appellant’s harassment. She lost weight, lost sleep and was anxious and worried about what he may do to her,” Justice Dennis O’Connor wrote in the court’s unanimous decision. Read R. v. Doherty
“The impact on her was magnified each time he ignored her pleas to stop, the police warnings and the court orders.”
The ruling is significant, especially given the relatively lengthy sentence, says Yoon.
“The criminal harassment provision in the Criminal Code has always had the ‘teeth’ needed to punish offenders given the broad ambit of conduct that’s captured under the provision,” says Yoon, associate with Brauti Thorning Zibarras. “What is important is the lengthy sentence handed down, due in no small part to the offender’s previous run-ins with the law and violation of a no-contact order. This is a strong signal from the bench that criminal harassment is not to be taken lightly and that the absence of physical violence does not mitigate from the seriousness of the offence.”
The outcome of the case is poised to impact others who suffer the same type of harassment, says Yoon.
“For women who endure threats of violence, this case can provide some small assurance that the law does not have to be merely reactive but can, in fact, be proactive and preemptive before violence takes place,” he says.