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Editorial: Is this justice?

Here’s hoping that this court outcome will set a bit of a precedent and harassment of this nature will stop.

Was justice served?

That is the question I have been asking myself after an online stalker was sentenced in a Vancouver courtroom last week.

The case involved the criminal harassment of journalist and media personality Jody Vance.

Judge Peter LaPrairie called the anonymous attacks ‘cowardly, aggressive and threatening in nature’ when he sentenced the accused Richard Sean Oliver to a year of probation.

Oliver pled guilty to one count of criminal harassment and was ordered by the judge to not contact Vance and fellow journalists Keith Baldry, Marcella Bernardo and other journalists.

According to reporting from Glacier Media journalist Jeremy Hainsworth, Oliver, 53, sent Vance more than 100 abusive emails disagreeing with her reporting of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oliver didn’t stop there as he sent the emails to her colleagues, show guests and supervisors. He attacked Vance, her family – including her son, and used altered photos of Vance in the emails.

Vance has been very open and transparent about the harassment as the case wound its way through the courts.

I’m sure she is happy that this is over. As a fellow journalist, I’ve received my fair share of harassing emails, phone calls and in-person visits from readers, but never to the extent of what Jody went through.

You can agree to disagree with coverage of a story, but when it gets personal and you start attacking a person’s character, a person’s family and their career – then you have crossed the line.

Justice LaPrairie certainly saw that in this case, but does the sentence fit the crime?

It doesn’t in my eyes.

This wasn’t someone who was caught shoplifting – this was a person who committed a targeted online attack.

Attacks such as these are far too frequent these days - especially against journalists - who are just trying to do their jobs in an ever changing and ever challenging environment.

Here’s hoping that this court outcome will set a bit of a precedent and harassment of this nature will stop.