A man who set up a private online forum devoted to trashing and sexually degrading a former friend had his criminal harassment conviction upheld on Wednesday.
In its ruling, Ontario’s top court rejected an attempt by Darrin Sim to have the conviction quashed, saying the trial judge made no mistakes in finding him guilty.
“By any standard, Sim’s conduct was morally reprehensible,” the Appeal Court said.
Court records show that Sim and the woman, who cannot be identified, were friends for several years starting in 2001 when he was 29 years old. He developed unrequited romantic feelings toward her and both eventually married other people and started families, the records show.
They later began emailing updates on their lives and, in 2009, he asked her for photographs of herself, which she sent.
In November 2010, court heard, Sim set up a Yahoo group forum and recruited about 150 members. The topic of the online group focused on the “degradation” of the woman, court documents show. She knew nothing about it.
Evidence was that Sim posted extensive biographical details and photos of the woman. He also wrote “false, degrading, vile, and grotesque sexualized commentary” about her, according to the court. He urged group members to post their own ugly comments, share crude sexual fantasies involving her, and to upload altered photographs of her in a sexually degrading way.
The aim, he posted on the forum, was to make the woman look like the “little slut she is.”
Someone alerted her in April 2013 to the group, which by that time had more than 1,500 members, court records indicate. Through a co-worker, she was able to gain full access to the site and gather screenshots that included multiple perverted and sexual message strings about her.
Among photographs on the website was one from her wedding alongside a sexually lewd caption. Posted details included her name, age, weight, height, bra size, underwear size, hobbies, education, occupation, and the number of children she had.
The woman was “shocked and frightened by what she saw,” the Appeal Court said. She went to police, who charged Sim with criminal harassment and publishing defamatory libel.
In October last year, Ontario court Judge Mitch Hoffman convicted Sim of criminal harassment but acquitted him of the libel charge.
“The accused’s threatening conduct towards the complainant was done while he was at least reckless as to whether she was harassed,” Hoffman said.
On appeal, Sim argued no proof existed that he meant to threaten her.
In dismissing the appeal, the higher court noted Sim’s conviction fell under a section of the Criminal Code that bars “threatening conduct directed at a person.” Sim’s notion that criminal harassment requires specific intent to “instill fear” simply doesn’t square with the law, the Appeal Court said.
The key question is would a reasonable person feel threatened by the impugned conduct, not what the accused was thinking, the court said.
“The objective assessment must consider the circumstances in which the conduct took place, and the effects that the conduct actually had on the complainant,” the Appeal Court said in upholding the guilty finding.