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

  • Iran's foreign minister in Pakistan amid tensions with U.S.

    World News CTV News
    ISLAMABAD -- Iran's foreign minister is in Pakistan on a critically timed visit amid a crisis between Tehran and Washington and ahead of next week's emergency Arab League meeting called by Saudi Arabia as regional tensions escalate. Source
  • Indian Prime Minister meets party leaders after election win

    World News CTV News
    NEW DELHI -- India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi was meeting with leaders of his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday fresh off his thunderous victory in the general elections. Modi will meet with his Cabinet as part of a series of post-election formalities before he can be sworn in as India's new prime minister. Source
  • British PM May expected to announce date of her departure

    World News CBC News
    British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected on Friday to announce the date of her departure, triggering a contest that will bring a new leader to power who is likely to push for a more decisive Brexit divorce deal. Source
  • Same-sex couples start registering marriages in Taiwan

    World News CTV News
    TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Hundreds of same-sex couples in Taiwan are rushing to get married on the first day a landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage takes effect. One household registration office in Taipei was packed Friday as couples seized the earliest opportunity to tie the knot. Source
  • Brazil's supreme court votes to make homophobia a crime

    World News CTV News
    RIO DE JANEIRO -- A majority in Brazil's supreme court has voted to make homophobia and transphobia crimes like racism, a decision coming amid fears the country's far-right president will roll back LGBT social gains. Source
  • More than video shows in Vegas bus shove murder case: lawyer

    World News CTV News
    LAS VEGAS -- There is more to know than a bus security video clip has shown about the case of a 25-year-old woman accused of killing a 74-year-old man by shoving him off a public bus in Las Vegas, an attorney defending the woman on a murder charge said Thursday. Source
  • Family of incapacitated woman who was raped blames Arizona

    World News CTV News
    PHOENIX -- The parents of an incapacitated woman who was raped and later gave birth at a Phoenix long-term care centre alleges in a $45 million legal claim that the facility and state broke their promise to have only female caregivers tend to their daughter. Source
  • Calgary man convicted of murder for second time after new trial ordered

    Canada News CTV News
    CALGARY -- A Calgary man has been convicted of the killing of a University of Calgary student -- for the second time.READ MORE on this story from CTV News Calgary A jury convicted Mitchell Harkes Thursday of the second-degree murder of 20-year-old Brett Wiese, who was fatally stabbed in the back at a party in January 2013. Source
  • Lawyer says deal close in Weinstein sexual misconduct lawsuits

    World News CBC News
    A tentative deal is close to settling lawsuits brought against the television and film company co-founded by Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by scores of women. "We now have an economic agreement in principal that is supported by the plaintiffs, the AG's office, the defendants and all of the insurers that, if approved, would provide significant compensation to victims, creditors and the estate, and allow the parties to avoid years of costly, time consuming and…
  • Trump moves to escalate investigation of intel agencies

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump directed the U.S. intelligence community on Thursday to "quickly and fully co-operate" with Attorney General William Barr's investigation of the origins of the multi-year probe of whether his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia. Source