B.C. man's revenge website reveals limits in criminal harassment law

VANCOUVER -- The British Columbia Crown's decision not to charge a man who created a revenge website to destroy his ex-wife's reputation reveals the limits of criminal harassment law in the digital age, experts say.

See Full Article

The Crown said it could not conclude the woman had an "objective basis to fear for her safety." The website includes private photos, her address and phone number and describes her as a white supremacist, child abuser and drug addict.

"I do think it's worth having a conversation as a society to find out whether or not 'objective fear for your safety' is in fact the right threshold, when more and more harassment is taking place online," said David Fraser, an Internet and privacy lawyer.

"I don't suggest dropping it so low that you just have to hurt somebody's feelings, but maybe that line is a little bit too high in order to deal with significant cases of purposeful harassment."

The case involving a B.C. man. and an Arizona woman has prompted criticism of Canadian law enforcement. While experts said the high threshold set by criminal harassment law plays a role, they also urged the Crown and police to take another look at the case.

Patrick Fox, whose birth name is Richard Riess, said in an interview that he created the site about his ex-wife Desiree Capuano to cause "as much damage to her reputation and life as possible," but that he would never physically harm her.

He said he would only take the site down if she reached a low point in her life that satisfied him or if she died. He said it "would be great" if she killed herself, but it isn't a goal of the site.

"I just don't believe that she really brings anything positive or good to the world at all, and I don't think the world is going to be worse off when she ceases to exist."

The couple separated in 2001, when their son was a baby. Capuano alleged that Fox hid the child from her for years, while Fox said she abandoned the boy. He was later convicted of perjury and deported from the U.S. in 2013, but he blames Capuano for calling authorities.

Capuano now has custody of their son and lives near Tucson, Ariz. She said she lives with constant stress and fear and has struggled to find work after being laid off months ago. At one point he sent her colleagues links to the website, she said.

Fox has also sent her hundreds of threatening emails, some including photos of his gun licence and a spot where he said he could cross the border, she said.

"I don't understand how, just because he's not physically in front of me with a gun, that it's not considered to be harassment," she said through tears. "Just because he's not hitting me physically, doesn't mean that it's not abuse."

She vehemently denied Fox's allegations that she's a child abuser, white supremacist or drug addict. She said she has not launched a defamation suit because she can't afford the legal costs.

Isabel Grant, a University of British Columbia law professor and criminal harassment expert, said courts have said reasonable fear for one's safety also includes psychological safety.

She noted that a recent Twitter harassment trial in Ontario resulted in an acquittal because the judge could not conclude the fear of the two complainants was reasonable. She said the B.C. case appears more egregious and could fall within criminal harassment law.

"When this provision was drafted in the early 1990s, people weren't thinking of cyber abuse. They were thinking of men who are physically following and threatening their former partners."

Dan McLaughlin, spokesman for B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch, said RCMP arrested, interviewed and released Fox in July 2015. Investigators later recommended charges, but they were not approved.

"This assessment included the fact that the two parties involved lived in different countries and the perpetrator had been deported from the U.S."

Legislation introduced last year that criminalized so-called "revenge porn" did not apply because photos of Capuano with a former partner on the website did not include nudity, he added.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Why some fear a 'Polexit' from European Union

    World News CTV News
    WARSAW, POLAND -- Poland is a focus of European attention this week, with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki addressing the European Parliament on Tuesday and leaders at a European Union summit expected later this week to grapple with a legal conundrum created by a recent ruling by Poland's constitutional court. Source
  • Committee probing Jan. 6 siege on U.S. Capitol plans contempt vote for Trump ally Steve Bannon

    World News CBC News
    The U.S House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection was moving swiftly Tuesday to hold at least one of Donald Trump's allies in contempt as the former president pushes back on the probe in a new lawsuit. Source
  • Grand jury hearing testimony in death of Robert Durst's wife

    World News CTV News
    NEW YORK -- New York prosecutors have gone to a grand jury as they seek to indict millionaire real estate scion Robert Durst for the death of his former wife, Kathie Durst, who vanished in 1982, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. Source
  • FBI at Russian oligarch's home for 'law enforcement' action

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- Federal agents conducted "law enforcement activity" on Tuesday at a Washington mansion owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The agents were carrying out "court-authorized law enforcement activity," an agency spokesperson said. Source
  • Husky Energy facing 3 charges for massive SeaRose oil spill off coast of N.L.

    Canada News CBC News
    Husky Energy is facing three charges for a massive spill of crude oil into the Atlantic Ocean in November 2018. The 250,000-litre spill — the largest in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador — came from a leak in a flowline to the SeaRose FPSO, a floating production, storage and offloading vessel about 350 kilometres southeast of St. Source
  • Thanks but no: Queen turns down 'Oldie of the Year' title

    World News CTV News
    LONDON -- Queen Elizabeth II is Britain and Commonwealth's longest-lived and longest-reigning monarch. But don't call her an oldie. The 95-year-old queen has politely declined the honor of being named "Oldie of the Year" by a British magazine, saying she does not meet "the relevant criteria. Source
  • Anatomy of a kidnapping: Haitian woman recounts abduction

    World News CTV News
    SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO -- When Doris Michel steps outside her home in Haiti, she packs her bulletproof vest and tries to use a bulletproof car. Ever since her father was kidnapped last month in the capital of Port-au-Prince, the 34-year-old Haitian-American woman won't take any chances. Source
  • Jury selection resumes slowly in Ahmaud Arbery slaying trial

    World News CTV News
    BRUNSWICK, GA. -- Attorneys resumed questioning potential jurors Tuesday in the trial of three white men charged with chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery, with several jury pool members saying they know the defendants or other people close to the case. Source
  • Taliban agree to new polio vaccination across Afghanistan

    World News CTV News
    ISTANBUL, TURKEY -- U.N. agencies are gearing up to vaccinate all of Afghanistan's children under 5 against polio for the first time since 2018, after the Taliban agreed to the campaign, the World Health Organization says. Source
  • One injury reported after plane crash in Waller County, Texas

    World News CTV News
    A plane carrying 22 people crashed while taking off at Houston Executive Airport on Tuesday morning, officials said. All passengers and crew were safely removed with one minor injury, Waller County Judge Trey Duhon reported via Facebook. Source