What can I do if someone is stalking or harassing me?
Think about your safety and get help. The first thing to do is call the police.
Dial 911 if you are in immediate danger.
Call the regular police number to discuss other criminal harassment offences.
Tell the police what is happening.
Let the police know that you fear for your safety or for the safety of someone you know.
Ask for support and information to help you cope.
Your safety is important to the police. The police can suggest ways to stop unwanted contact and improve your safety. They can put you in touch with others who can help. This might include victim service workers, transition houses, or crisis and counselling services. They may also suggest safety measures such as getting an unlisted phone number.
- Any relevant details that you know about the person. For example, does he or she have a gun, a criminal record, or an existing court order not to contact you?
- Written records with details about every contact. These records will help if you go to court. (Try to include dates, times, places and what the person said or did.) Ask your friends to keep records too if the person is contacting them.
- Things the person sent you, such as notes, gifts, or phone messages.
- A list of witnesses, including names and telephone numbers.
Will the police charge the person who is harassing me?If there is enough evidence of an offence, the police will charge the person. In some provinces, the police must consult with the Crown prosecutor before they lay charges. However, if the police do not charge the person, it does not mean that they do not believe you. There may not be enough evidence to support a charge and the police may suggest other legal options such as a peace bond, restraining order or protection order.
What would the police charge the person with? Depending on what has happened and the type of evidence, the police might charge the person with one or more Criminal Code offences, such as:
- criminal harassment
- trespassing at night
- uttering threats
Will the person harassing me be arrested and sent to jail? The answer is not simple. It depends on the facts and the seriousness of the behaviour. The police will assess each situation and take the appropriate action under the circumstances. For example, if the police do not arrest the person, they may require him or her to sign a "promise to appear" in court to answer the charge. Tell the police and victim services if you still fear for your safety. If the police do make an arrest, ask them to let you know if they release the person from custody. If the person goes before a judge or a Justice of the Peace, which usually happens within hours, he or she might be:
- released on an "undertaking" (a promise that usually has conditions to stay away from the victim and other related persons);
- released on bail after signing a "recognizance" (a promise to appear in court which includes a financial penalty for not showing up and perhaps restrictions like promising not to contact you); or
- kept in jail until the trial. This might happen if the crime was serious and the court believes the person may not show up, or will commit another offence before the trial.
Will I have to go to court?
- If charges are laid, the police will turn the file over to the Crown prosecutor's office. The Crown prosecutor is responsible for taking the case to court. If the accused person pleads guilty, you may not have to go to court. If he or she pleads not guilty, the Crown prosecutor would summon you as a witness at the trial to prove that the person committed the crime. Ask for help from victim services. A victim service worker can answer questions about what will happen in court, and keep you updated on the status of your case. They can also make sure you have an interpreter in court if you need one. You can contact the Crown prosecutor in your case if you have questions about the evidence you will present in court.
What happens if the person is found guilty?
- If the accused person pleads guilty or is found guilty, the judge will decide the sentence. Before sentencing, you can give the court a written victim impact statement describing how the crime affected you. If you wish, you may read the statement at the sentencing hearing. The sentence for a criminal harassment conviction may range from jail in the most serious cases (up to 10 years) to probation in less serious cases. Probation orders can include conditions such as no contact. The court can also impose a fine. The exact sentence depends on many factors -- whether violence was used, whether the person already has a criminal record, whether drugs and alcohol were involved, and so on.
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