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Up To Five Years In Prison For A Social Media Post?

Social media is a double-edged sword. Its very benefit, instantaneous communication with others, can also land you in hot water.

Bad government frustrates us all and social media allows us to express that frustration with our elected officials in mere seconds. But failure to think before hitting the “Send” button can also land you in prison for uttering threats.

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from the consequences of that speech.

Section 264.1 of the Criminal Code deals with uttering threats. The maximum penalty for a conviction under this section is five years in prison. This is a serious crime that carries serious prison time.

The RCMP takes online threats extremely seriously, as they should.

For example, in January 2016, while aboard a VIA Rail train bound for Toronto, James Martin Platts was overheard threatening to kill Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his entire family and other female Members of Parliament. Coburg Police arrested him and pulled him off the train and charged him with uttering threats. While Platts pled not guilty and Ontario Court Justice Stuart W. Konyer ultimately acquitted him on all charges, Platts still spent seven months in custody awaiting trial.

On July 8, 2016, Christopher Hayes of Grayson, Saskatchewan, posted the following on social media: “Am I going to kill JT? Nope. Physically harm the guy? Nope. I do think however he should be shot dead … and I would personally thank the person who did kill him.”

In February 2017, Hayes was fined $500 and placed on probation for nine months after he pleaded guilty to uttering threats against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

In May 2017, Derek Hurrell also used social media to threaten the Prime Minister. While the specifics of the threat were not made public, police seized Hurrell’s cell phone and other electronic devices and charged him with one count of uttering threats under Section 264.1 of the Criminal Code.

In May 2017, Lisa Seymour-Peters blew off some steam on social media. Unfortunately for her, the RCMP deemed the language she used to express her frustration as threats to both the government and the wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and she now faces charges under Section 264.1 of the Criminal Code.

In June 2017, Sebastien Taylor called Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale’s office and left a threatening message on the answering machine.  He too was charged with uttering threats under Section 264.1 of the Criminal Code.

It’s important for the public to know that criminal charges may be laid if evidence is obtained to support them. We do not take these investigations lightly and we cannot speculate whether or not someone may or may not act on alleged threats made,” said “F” Division Assistant Criminal Operations Officer Supt. Rob Cameron.

In this age of instant communication, that age-old advice still applies, albeit with a slight twist.

When you’re angry, count to ten before you hit “Send.”

It’s a far better alternative to spending seven months in prison awaiting your criminal trial, as James Martin Platts did after his arrest.


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