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

  • Desperate times obscure Canada's role in Iraq's uncertain future

    Canada News CTV News
    ERBIL, Iraq -- A baby's cry pierces the din as dozens of people wait to see a doctor or nurse at what's surely one of the busiest health clinics in the Middle East: inside a sprawling refugee camp that's home to 18,000 displaced men, women and children. Source
  • U.S. House probe into Russia ties to Trump off to rocky start

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- A simmering dispute between leaders of the House intelligence committee spilled into the public Monday over an investigation into whether President Donald Trump has ties to Russia, even as they pledged to conduct a bipartisan probe. Source
  • Turkey jails reporter from Germany's Die Welt paper

    World News CBC News
    Turkish authorities on Monday arrested a reporter for a prominent German newspaper on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist organization and inciting the public to violence, Republican People's Party (CHP) lawmaker Baris Yarkadas told reporters outside the courthouse. Source
  • Convicted killer Kelly Ellard allowed temporary escorted prison release

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - Convicted killer Kelly Ellard has been granted temporary escorted absences from prison to attend doctor’s appointments and parenting programs for her baby. Parole board member Alex Dantzer says it’s disturbing that Ellard continues to minimize her crime, but in light of her good behaviour in prison she should be allowed the absences. Source
  • Jewish centres cope with more bomb threats; graves also vandalized

    World News Toronto Sun
    PHILADELPHIA - Money is being raised to repair and restore more than 100 headstones that were vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia while police hunt for the person who toppled them. A man visiting Mount Carmel Cemetery on Sunday called police to report that three of his relatives’ headstones had been knocked over and damaged. Source
  • Bartender told 911 Kansas man accused of shooting two Indian men thought they were Iranian

    World News Toronto Sun
    OLATHE, Kan. — A bartender at the restaurant where a man was arrested last week for an apparently racially motivated bar shooting of two Indian men told a 911 dispatcher that the suspect admitted shooting two people, but described them as Iranian. Source
  • Ex-Montreal mayor Applebaum won't appeal corruption conviction

    Canada News CTV News
    MONTREAL -- The lawyer for former Montreal mayor Michael Applebaum says there will be no appeal of his client's conviction on corruption-related charges. Pierre Teasdale confirmed the decision Monday but did not give any reasons. Source
  • Mom not getting son, who weighed 132 lbs. at age 5, back

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    SYDNEY, N.S. — A Nova Scotia judge has ruled that a boy who was five years old and weighed 132 pounds when he was taken from his mother will not return to her care, saying living with her was too hazardous to his health. Source
  • Security advisory issued after bomb threats at Jewish schools, centres across U.S.

    World News CTV News
    A national Jewish civil rights organization is urging institutions across the United States to ramp up their security efforts amid a wave of bomb threats phoned into Jewish community centres and schools in as many as 12 U.S. Source
  • 'Just killed two people. Cheers': Murderer sends chilling text to father

    World News Toronto Sun
    A Welsh man sent a bitter text to his father soon after stabbing his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend to death, bizarrely signing off the message by saying “cheers.” Before the double-killing of Zoe Morgan and Lee Simmons in Cardiff, Andrew Saunders took to Google, asking “how long do murderers serve in prison,” according to the Daily Mail. Source