Giving the middle finger may not be nice, but it is people’s “God-given” right, a Canadian judge has ruled in clearing a man of harassment charges in a neighbors’ quarrel.
In his often-hilarious 26-page ruling cited by The Guardian Friday, Quebec court judge Dennis Galiatsatos unequivocally proclaimed that displaying the rude hand gesture does not constitute a criminal act.
“To be abundantly clear, it is not a crime to give someone the finger,” the judge wrote in his recent opinion. “Flipping the proverbial bird is a God-given, Charter-enshrined right that belongs to every red-blooded Canadian.
“It may not be civil, it may not be polite, it may not be gentlemanly. Nevertheless, it does not trigger criminal liability.”
In May 2021, police in the Montreal suburb of Beaconsfield arrested 45-year-old Neall Epstein, a local school teacher, on charges of uttering death threats and criminal harassment after he “flipped off” his neighbor, Michael Naccache.
The two men had been feuding, and on that day Naccache, 34, allegedly hurled profanities at Epstein and raised a drill at him in a “menacing way.”
Epstein later testified that Naccache called him “f—ing crazy” and “dips–t,” and told him: “you’re f—ing dead.”
Epstein responded to his neighbor’s unhinged antics by telling him to “f–k off” and giving him a double middle finger salute, before walking away from the confrontation.
When Epstein returned home from his walk with his children, he found police officers waiting to arrest him.
Naccache told the cops that Epstein made a throat-slashing gesture at him, leadng him to believe the dad-of-two would try to kill him.
“On what basis did he fear that Mr. Epstein was a potential murderer?” the judge wondered. “The fact that he went for quiet walks with his kids? The fact that he socialized with the other young parents on the street? If that is the standard, we should all fear that our neighbors are killers-in-waiting.”
In his ruling, Judge Galiatsatos harshly upbraided Naccache for involving the authorities in his long-standing quarrel.
“The complainants are free to clutch their pearls in the face of such an insult,” his opinion read. “However, the police department and the 911 dispatching service have more important priorities to address.”
The judge concluded his ruling with a flourish, lamenting that he is unable to literally — not just figuratively — throw this case out of court.
“Alas, the courtrooms of the Montreal courthouse do not have window,” he quipped.