4 min

Nowhere to turn

Victims of hate mail disappointed with system

An Ottawa lesbian couple who have been receiving abusive and hateful e-mails for months say Ottawa police and crown attorneys haven’t helped them.

Jane and Laurie (not their real names), who wish to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from the man sending the e-mails, are upset that a decision not to prosecute was made in early July but they were not informed until late September. To add insult to injury, they were only informed by way of a voicemail from the detective in charge.

“We have been let down by the system. A little kindness and regard could have gone a long way. We are faceless members of the community and second-class citizens,” says Jane.

Jane and Laurie began receiving the e-mails in late February from a former co-worker of Jane’s, accusing her of getting job advances “by sticking her tongue in a dyke’s twat.” Not only did she receive the e-mails but most of her colleagues at work were getting them also, making for a very difficult working environment. Both have lost count of the number of e-mails they have received and are concerned that they will continue now that he knows police won’t press charges.

Although the couple is angry the crown will not proceed with the charges, they are more concerned with what the person sending the e-mails was told. Whether he was warned to stop or simply told there’s nothing police can do is a burning question the two have been continually asking. But the police have yet to reply.

“When you give him the news that his behavior isn’t criminal we feel he will see that as a victory and step up his attack,” says Laurie.

Since the crown decided in July not to proceed, the couple has continued to receive additional e-mails. As well, both have mysteriously found themselves subscribed to over 40 porn sites on the web. They can’t prove it, but they have no doubt the same person is responsible.

“This has played havoc with our relationship with each other. We are both too tired and frustrated to be angry and trying to face all those people at work who were sent these e-mails also is not easy. I hope we will get some answers because we will continue to keep hounding police until we get them.”

The two filed the complaint against the harasser in early March and handed over copies of all the e-mails they had received at that time. The case was assigned to Detective Dave West who investigated the matter and told the couple he would have a reply in July from the Crown Attorney’s office on whether or not they could proceed with a prosecution. When the couple hadn’t heard from the detective by mid-July, they tried calling him.

“We left countless messages and e-mails asking what was happening. We had to keep badgering the police in order to get an answer,” she says.

According to the couple, the only way there was movement on the case was when City Councillor Alex Munter began making inquiries to Deputy Chief Larry Hill.

The couple also brought the issue to the Police Liaison Committee for the GLBT Community but were disappointed with the apparent lack of interest.

“Neither of us was impressed with this committee. A lot was rhetoric and doublespeak. There were people who were not following the topic and nobody was talking to each other.”

Committee co-chair Cynthia Cousens understands the frustration the couple felt. “There was a thorough investigation and once all the evidence was brought to the Crown it was decided it wouldn’t be able to prosecute successfully,” she says. “This is why it’s imperative that Bill C-250 become law, and then crimes like this can be successfully prosecuted.”

Bill C-250 is an amendment to Section 318 of the criminal code that governs hate crime and will see sexual orientation added to the classes of identifiable groups. It passed third reading in the House of Commons and is now with the Senate.

Cousens adds it was important that the couple came to the committee with their concerns. “With them coming to the committee it was identified there was a breakdown in communication.”

Inspector Terry Cheslock, who was at the Liaison meeting, admits the detective in charge should have kept in touch with the couple even if there was nothing to report, but told the victims in an e-mail that following a review of Detective West’s handling of the case by a superior officer, there was no fault found in the way West handled the case.

“The officer’s supervisor has found no fault in his handling of the file,” said Cheslock in the e-mail. “The time it took for Detective West to notify you refers to repeated delays and phones messages not being returned by the Crown attorney (Dave Roberts) assigned to the file. Detective West finally spoke directly to Roberts on Sep 4 and confirmed his earlier opinion that the case does not meet the test for a criminal matter.”

Cheslock told Capital Xtra that following the Sep 4 meeting with the crown, West attempted to contact both parties to inform them of the crown’s decision but was unsuccessful.

“Obviously client service is a key component to any investigation and it is our standard to ensure that the complainant is kept informed of any developments at the earliest opportunity,” says Cheslock.

But the couple says they still feel as if they were ignored.

“I don’t think they took this seriously just given the way Detective West didn’t answer our calls or e-mails and when he finally called us back, telling us there was nothing they could do, he did so in a voicemail,” says Jane. “We have certain expectations of the police to support us in some way, and I thought the liaison committee was formed to do just those things, but I really don’t know what either is doing.”

Capital Xtra attempted contacting Dave Roberts, the crown prosecutor assigned to the case, for comment, but he was away on an out of town prosecution and did not reply.