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What is criminal harassment?

Personal relationships are highly complex. People experience feelings differently; they misinterpret conversations or actions; they fight and break up only to reconcile later. Because of these complexities, someone could wind up crossing a line and engaging in criminal harassment.

Criminal harassment is harassing someone or causing them to fear for their or their loved ones' safety. There are serious consequences for this offence, so you should know what misconduct can look like and how you can respond if you are accused of this crime.

Examples of criminal harassment

As noted in the Criminal Code of Canada, prohibited conduct that can lead to criminal harassment charges includes:

  • Watching a person's house or business without his or her knowledge 
  • Following someone from place to place regularly without them knowing it
  • Repeated, unwanted emailing, calling, texting or any other types of communication
  • Making threats directed at the person or someone associated with him or her
  • Damaging his or her property

Based on these specifications, sitting outside someone's house all night to see if he or she comes home from a date could be harassment. So, too, could sending unsolicited pictures or messages, breaking his or her car windows, or threatening to disclose private information about someone unless he or she meets with you.

In some cases, people engage in this type of conduct after a fight or breakup. They may be mad, or they think that they are just doing what they can to apologize or repair damage. However, even in these cases, such behaviours can lead to criminal charges.

Responding to claims of criminal harassment

If someone accuses you of criminal harassment, you should take the allegations seriously, even if you know the other person is lying or believe that it was a simple mix-up. You could be facing six months imprisonment and a $5,000 fine, or up to 10 years imprisonment.

Defending yourself can be crucial. Defences might include disputing the evidence against you or calling the accuser's character into question. It could also be necessary to have a third party testify with regard to potential mental health issues.

There are at least two sides to every story. Presenting your side to criminal harassment allegations can be crucial in setting the record straight and avoiding unfair, harsh penalties.

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