Moira Aikenhead, Ph.D. Student

Moira Aikenhead

Moira Aikenhead completed her LL.M. Thesis Revisions to Canada’s Sentencing Regime as a Remedy to the Over-Incarceration of Persons with Mental Disabilities at Allard School of Law in 2014. Her research centered on the historical and ongoing discrimination faced by individuals with mental disabilities in Canada, and the resultant criminalization of mental illness. She proposed legislative reforms to Canada’s Criminal Code that would allow judges to craft more appropriate sentences for individuals with mental disabilities who become involved with the criminal justice system, including exemptions from mandatory minimum sentences and increased availability of Conditional Sentence Orders.

Since completing her LL.M., Moira has taught a number of undergraduate courses at Simon Fraser University’s School of Criminology, including a Special Topics course of her own design on privacy and criminal law in the digital age, and an upper-year seminar on mental disorder, criminality, and the law. She has also lectured at the Peter A. Allard School of Law, teaching a first-year course on Legal Research and Writing, and an Advanced Legal Research and Writing seminar for upper-year law students.

Moira has decided to pursue her PhD at the Peter A. Allard School of Law, and commenced her research in September 2016. Shifting gears from her LL.M. research, her dissertation will focus on the increasingly urgent issue of Canadian legal responses to gender-based violence against women taking place online, or facilitated through the use of the Internet. A number of high-profile instances of this type of violence have resulted in numerous academics, human rights groups, and governmental agencies calling for change in this area. Status of Women Canada is in the development phase of a Federal Strategy on Gender-based Violence, and Moira believes any such strategy must include plans to combat the violence women face online. Moira is going to conduct a comprehensive review of the relevant Canadian case law to see how judges are currently grappling with this emerging issue. She will also review any relevant criminal and civil legislation that could be used to provide justice for victims of online gender-based violence, and identify where legislative gaps exist. Moira’s research will also focus on enforcement, and strategies to deal with the unique issues of online violence including its sometimes inter-jurisdictional nature, user anonymity, and law enforcement’s reliance on third parties (such as ISPs and social networking sites) to investigate and prosecute crimes taking place online.

Moira greatly looks forward to pursuing her PhD research and continuing to work with her LL.M. supervisor, Professor Isabel Grant, in the hopes of proposing concrete legal solutions to this pressing issue.

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