I’ve been charged with Criminal Harassment. What do I need to know?

2. Understand what the Crown has to prove

In every criminal case, the Crown must prove at least four things:

  1. Identity: you're the person who committed the crime.
  2. Jurisdiction: this is the correct court to deal with your case. For example, if you're charged with something you did when you were under 18, you should be in a youth court.
  3. Date: the crime took place when the police say it did.
  4. Elements of the crime.

The elements of the crime of Harassment are:

  • you did one of these things:
    • repeatedly followed someone around
    • repeatedly communicated with someone (phone calls, text messages, social media, etc.)
    • repeatedly watched or argumentatively approached someone's home, workplace, or another place the person spends time
    • threatened a person or a member of their family
  • the person felt harassed by what you did
  • you knew that the person felt harassed
  • the person was scared for their safety or for someone else's safety
  • it was reasonable for the person to be scared

In some situations, you can be guilty of harassment even if you didn't know that the person felt harassed, but you are acting recklessly. For example, you keep sending angry text messages to someone who doesn't respond. Even though they haven't told you to stop, the fact that they are not responding should be enough for you to know they may be feeling harassed.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt

The judge can only find you guilty if they are certain about everything the Crown must prove. That means the Crown must prove identity, jurisdiction, date, and every element of the crime.

If the judge is not completely sure about even one of these things, the judge cannot find you guilty. This is known as “proof beyond a reasonable doubt“.

It is not enough for the judge to think that you're probably guilty, or that you're likely guilty. They must be certain about everything the Crown must prove.

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