A Halifax based internet and privacy lawyer says authorities could already have the necessary tools to shut down a website a B.C. man says he created to “destroy” his ex wife.
The so-called “revenge website” includes intimate photos of the woman, her home, her family and friends, along with contact information, and alleges she is “a drug addict, a child abuser, a white supremist, a narcissist, and just an all around bad person.”
Patrick Fox created the website about his ex, Desiree Capuano in 2013 after a nasty custody battle over their son and his eventual deportation back to B.C. Capuano lives in Arizona.
Since then it has been updated dozens of times with alleged details of Capuano’s sex life, and claims about her professional life.
But while officials have looked into the website, Crown didn’t pursue criminal harassment charges because it found Capuano didn’t have an “objective” fear for her safety.
Tools may already exist
“Given everything that’s been reported about this about what’s on the website, about the intention of the ex husband – including looking to recruit people to get into relationships with her in order to get more stuff that could be put on this website. It seems to me that there’s a really good chance that it rises to that threshold.”
Fraser says harassment laws, despite being written in an era where stalking was a physical issue, still apply to the digital realm.
And he says the case shows it might be time to rethink exactly what the law means when it refers to an “objective fear for safety,” which could potentially look at psychological safety.
Fraser says prosecutors could also take a different angle: defamation. He says while we generally tend to think of defamation as a civil issue, it’s also on the books as a criminal offense, and could be applicable considering Fox shows clear malice with the intent of his site.
“It seems to at least be another tool in the tool kit that a prosecutor could rely upon to go after this individual, at least from the quotes attributed to him is doing this for the sole purpose of harming this woman.”
For his part, Fox took to the website this weekend to deny that the content qualified as bullying, harassment, or defamation.
Revisiting the case
Fraser says the case highlights the challenges of adapting 20th century laws to 21st century issues.
But he says while authorities have chosen not to act up to this point, they always have the ability to go back and look at the case again.
“The public are no stranger to circumstances where at first glance the police or the prosecutors have really not applied existing laws in the online arena. One just needs to think about the Amanda Todd case. She was a victim of extortion, extortion was a crime under the criminal code then as it is now. It doesn’t matter if you do it electronically. And in retrospect the police and the prosecution service didn’t push hard enough. And this may be an example of that.”
CKNW has reached out to the Ministry of Justice about the potential to reopen the case, but has not yet received a reply.