When does following someone turn criminal? Lawyer weighs in as more women come forward with troubling experiences

When does following someone turn criminal? Lawyer weighs in as more women come forward with troubling experiences

VANCOUVER – The video of a man following Jamie Coutts in Vancouver’s Chinatown neighborhood struck a chord with other women in town who recall their own experiences of being followed by suspicious strangers.

Emma Windsor-Liscombe told CTV News that she could relate to what Coutts went through and wasn’t shocked when she saw the video online.

Windsor-Liscombe said she was walking her dog downtown in 2019 when a man in dark clothes and a hood appeared out of nowhere.

“He started saying things that I found very inappropriate and also very worrying, and he followed me down a block,” said Windsor-Liscombe on Tuesday, adding that he was only about a foot behind her.

“It looked like he was following me home, so I made a rather awkward walk home until it looked like he was gone.”

Most disappointingly, however, Windsor-Liscombe was disappointed with the police reaction when they reported the incident.

“The person on the other end of the call seemed honestly dismissive as well as very patronizing, and I had to push for a file to be created, which I think is shocking,” she said.

While the behavior described in both cases is intimidating, is it illegal?

CTV News asked this question to trial attorney Sarah Leamon. She said the most likely charge when a person is caught is criminal harassment.

“Criminal harassment captures behavior that a reasonable person feels has been threatened with their safety, and that includes the following behavior,” Leamon said.

Referring to the Coutts video, she added, “I think because we see this person following this young woman repeatedly, she is clearly fearful for her safety to the point where she decides to go with the Start shooting. “

The Canadian Criminal Code describes criminal harassment as “when someone makes you fear for the safety of your or a family member,” which can be done by “repeatedly following you or someone you know”.

Most criminal harassment cases involve ex-partners, and Leamon says examples of convictions involving strangers are rare.

In the event that Jamie Coutts is being followed by a man she did not know, Leamon says this could be an occasion where the legal wording is open to interpretation.

“I think there is likely to be a case here that even in a short period of time the behavior was so outrageous and threatening that it could come under criminal harassment,” she said.

Leamon also praised Coutts for capturing interaction on camera.

“By videotaping this person and capturing the evidence that would otherwise have been fleeting, this becomes a really great piece of evidence for the future as it moves forward.”

On Saturday, Vancouver police said they had arrested a man who was a “person of interest” in Coutt’s case. But when she was called to identify him, she said it wasn’t the man who was following her.

“The majority of people think he’s getting caught now, no one is looking,” Coutts told CTV News over the weekend.

Police on Tuesday made a statement to CTV News that they are still investigating the case and “take these files 100 percent seriously.”

If you feel unsafe, you should call 911.