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Ontario court reinforces laws to protect women from harrassment

In an important decision for the legal treatment of abused women, Ontario’s top court has found that stalking and verbal threats can be just as severe as physical attacks.

The province’s Court of Appeal upheld a sentence of 5 1/2 years in the case of a man who subjected a woman he had recently met to a barrage of harassing phone calls and letters, including two sent while he was in jail awaiting trial.

Patrick James Doherty argued that, because he did not assault his victim, he should receive a lesser sentence. The court rejected his reasoning.

The victim “suffered mentally and physically as a result of the appellant’s harassment. She lost weight, lost sleep and was anxious and worried about what he may do to her,” wrote Justice Dennis O’Connor of the court’s unanimous decision. “The impact on her was magnified each time he ignored her pleas to stop, the police warnings and the court orders.”

It all began in November of last year when Agnieszka Mikulska posted a classified advertisement online, seeking a roommate for her Kitchener, Ont., apartment. Mr. Doherty responded. Initially polite, he became angry when Ms. Mikulska picked someone else to live with her.

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