2022 October 25
Post v. Hillier, 2022 ONSC 6005
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice imposed a sentence of 75 days house arrest followed by nine months probation on the Defendant for civil contempt following a defamation verdict made in June, 2022. That defamation verdict (in addition to awarding significant damages to the Plaintiff) required the Defendant to remove any content about the Plaintiff from her social media accounts; prohibited further false or disparaging statements about the Plaintiff; and required the Defendant to post a retraction online.
Instead of complying, the Defendant “doubled down and tweeted ten defamatory comments”. The Court also held that the Defendant “did absolutely nothing to end a crowdfunding campaign launched by her online friend … on GiveSendGo” to support her “campaign”. The GoSendGo statements undermined the June 2022 Order, “perpetuated the myth that what [the Defendant] had said about [the Plaintiff] was true, and falsely suggested that [the Defendant’s] representations were not addressed at the contempt proceedings.” “I do not accept that [the Defendant] was unaware of the campaign content or that she was powerless to stop it.”
The Court noted that the Superior Court of Justice has as a court of inherent jurisdiction broad common law powers to enforce and punish violations of court orders. A contemnor can be committed to jail or subject to any other sanction for a criminal offence. In determining the sentence to impose, the court is guided by the principles of sentencing in the criminal law which are set out in the Criminal Code. Where conduct has been wilful, flagrant, ongoing and damaging, a jail sentence is more likely. The court is still entitled and required to sentence for contempt even after the contempt is purged. Otherwise persons could flagrantly disobey court orders and delay purging until just prior to sentencing.
In addition to ordering house arrest and a period of probation, the court ordered the Defendant to remain at all times in Ontario, to comply with the June, 2022 defamation verdict, to not make any defamatory statements when speaking to others, to carry at all times a copy of the court’s sentencing order, to complete 120 hours of community service, and not make any online statements about the Plaintiff or the legal proceedings involving the Defendant and the Plaintiff. The court also ordered the Defendant to pay substantial indemnity costs to the Plaintiff.