Nova Scotia

FHRITP heckling cases could lead to charges, Halifax police say

Halifax police say they will consider criminal charges against men yelling vulgarities at women reporters while they’re while they’re on camera, calling the incidents "sexualized violence."

Mischief, harassment or breach of the peace are some charges being considered

CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt is shown with men who taunted her at a Toronto FC soccer game. Halifax police said they will look at laying charges against FHRITP hecklers. (CityNews)

Halifax police say they will consider criminal charges against men yelling vulgarities at women reporters while they're on camera, calling the incidents "sexualized violence." 

"We thought it was very important for the community to see first up what our position is and understand what are the possibilities that are out there for charges against individuals who act in this manner," Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais said.

Halifax Regional Police issued a statement to the public on Friday.

"We want people to know that aside from being extremely degrading and disrespectful, it could also be criminal. Depending on the circumstances, a person who does this could be charged with mischief, harassment or breach of the peace. "

"From a criminal perspective, it could be mischief, stopping the reporter from doing her job. It could also be making a public disturbance, there's some other regulatory infractions as well."

Halifax Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais said Friday police are prepared to lay charges against FHRITP hecklers. (CBC)

Blais called the behaviour "sexist, it is down right stupid."

The chief said he has sent internal messages to officers about how to handle the incidents.

"This is also part of our importance of dealing with sexualized violence over all. But we're also asking for any reporters who have issues or any problems to contact us and we will open an investigation," said Blais.

The police statement says the vulgarities shouted at female reporters who are working aren't protected by a freedom of speech defence.

"The individuals who are doing this may think it's funny and harmless or within the boundaries of their freedom of expression, but we view this type of behaviour as a form of sexualized violence and take it very seriously," police said in the statement.

Police said they encourage anyone who experiences the harassment to report it. They also urged the men who do it, to stop.

"Sexualized violence was one of our operational priorities in 2014, and remains so this year as well," the statement said.

"We learned that we needed to change our communications approach both publicly and with victims to ensure we're focusing on the perpetrator's actions as opposed to the victim's actions. In essence, we need to ensure we don't want blame the victim for what has happened. "

Halifax police officers are now being told to refrain from offering crime prevention tips that could be construed as blaming the victim such as "don't advise victims to never walk alone, use the buddy-system, watch your drink, etc.

"The only thing that makes sexual violence happen is the presence of a perpetrator who chooses to commit an act. It's our view that we need everyone in our community to work collaboratively to change societal attitudes about what's acceptable behaviour and what constitutes harassment." 

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