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Assault Causing Bodily Harm

The Charge

Section 2 of the Criminal Code defines bodily harm as “any hurt or injury to a person that interferes with the health or comfort of a person that is more than merely transitory or trifling in nature.” Effectively, any assault that causes more than a “very minor degree of distress” may result in a conviction for Assault Causing Bodily Harm. Assault Causing Bodily Harm is a hybrid offence meaning Crown counsel has the option of proceeding by indictment, where the maximum sentence is 10 years in jail. If the Crown chooses to proceed summarily, the maximum sentence is two years jail, less a day. There are no mandatory minimums for assault causing bodily harm. Non-custodial sentences are available.

To obtain a conviction for Assault Causing Bodily Harm, the Crown must first prove that there was an assault – that force was applied without the complainant’s consent and that the accused was not acting in self-defence. Additionally, the Crown must prove that the assault was the cause of an injury that is more than “minor” or “trifling.”

The Investigation

Assault Causing Bodily Harm investigations unfold according to the nature of how and when the police receive a complaint. For example, police may be called to a bar or nightclub when a concerned patron or server sees a fight break out. Police will attend the scene and make an arrest. In other cases, it may take hours, days or weeks for police to be notified. In these situations, police will contact the suspect by attending at their house or workplace. They may contact the suspect by phone. As investigators, the police will want to hear the suspect’s side of the story. As experienced lawyers, this is where we can help our clients understand their right to silence as guaranteed by the Charter.

When we are contacted by a suspect prior to their arrest, we can be of significant assistance. We will contact police to determine who the investigating officer is. We will then contact this officer to determine the nature of the investigation. Because of the laws concerning solicitor/client privilege, we can act as a “buffer” between police and our client. We are able to speak on your behalf without creating any evidence that could be used to incriminate you. We will strive to persuade police to not take you into custody at all or, alternatively, to release you as quickly as possible, with the least onerous conditions that are appropriate.

Recent Successes

R. vs. A.N. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a Weapon.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we guided our client through, whether it was in the public interest for Crown to seek a conviction on this charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to permit our client to plead to the lesser offence of common assault. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. J.J. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of  the Crown being able to prove that bodily harm occurred.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to permit our client to plead to the lesser offence of common assault. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions, the court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. S.W. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given that the complainant had instigated the altercation, whether it was in the public interest for our client to be convicted of the offence.
Result: We were able to guide our client through a course of rehabilitation and, after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge and placed him on a non-reporting probation order for six months. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. S.W. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Refusing to comply with a testing demand.
Issue: Given the circumstances of the offence and our client, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the lesser Motor Vehicle Act offence of driving without due care. Rather than a criminal conviction and a minimum 12 month driving prohibition, our client was liable to pay a $350 fine and a 2 month driving prohibition. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.S. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Given the circumstances of the offence and our client, whether it was necessary for Crown to proceed with the driving while prohibited charge, which carries a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser Motor Vehicle Act charge of driving without a driver's licence. After hearing Mr. Johnson's submissions our client was sentenced to a fine and a 4 month driving prohibition.

R. vs. J.S. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm (domestic).
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove that bodily harm resulted and, whether the rehabilitative steps our client had taken justified the Court granting a conditional discharge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed on the charge of common assault. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. C.M. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault; Threatening.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of conviction in this alleged "road rage" case.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to provide information to Crown counsel on our client's behalf that led Crown to conclude there was no substantial likelihood of conviction. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. M.D. - North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Theft Under $5000; Uttering Threats.
Issue: Whether, given our client's circumstances and remorse, whether it was in the public interest for criminal charges to proceed.
Result: We were able to provide information to police investigators which resulted in police deciding to not forward any charges to Crown. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.L. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to provide information to the Crown on our client's behalf that persuaded Crown that the case did not meet the charge approval standard. No charge was approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.F. - Provincial Court of Newfoundland

Charge: Possession for the Purpose of Trafficking (Marijuana).
Issue: Whether it there was a substantial likelihood of obtaining a conviction.
Result: Upon considering Mr. Johnson's representations, Crown counsel concluded that there was no longer a likelihood of conviction. Crown withdrew the charge, bringing the matter to an end. No criminal record.

R. vs. M.B. - Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Application for firearms prohibition and forfeiture.
Issue: Whether Crown could establish that our client posed a risk to himself or others.
Result: Mid trial, Mr. Mines was able to obtain a successful resolution in which our client consented to an 18 month prohibition rather than the 5 years Crown had been seeking.  Further, rather than having to forfeit the  $15,000 worth of weapons that police seized,  Crown agreed to allow our client to sell them to a suitable buyer.

R. vs. C.B. - Vancouver Police Investigation

Charge: Possession of proceeds of crime.
Issue: Whether there was any lawful authority to arrest our client and seize funds from him.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the investigating officer that there was no basis to search our client and to return the $2400 cash that he had seized. No charges approved. Not criminal record.

The Defence

Consent

As in a common assault charge, the Crown must prove that the complainant did not consent to receiving contact from the accused. For example, if a person is engaged in a fist fight that the other person agrees to take part in, and there is no resulting injury, the person is entitled to be found not guilty. However, it should be noted that the courts have held that a person cannot consent to receive bodily harm. Thus, consent is vitiated where an accused intentionally applies force that causes non-trivial bodily harm in the course of a fist-fight or brawl.

Self Defence

The law, under s. 34 of the Criminal Code, allows that if a person reasonably believes that force is being used (or threatened to be used) against them, the person is permitted to use reasonable force to defend themselves, or another person, so long as the force they use is not excessive. In other words, in the course of being attacked, a person may use reasonable force to defend themselves even if it results in bodily harm to the attacker. In determining whether the force used was excessive or not, the court will consider various circumstances, including:

  • The nature of the force or threat;
  • The extent to which there was an alternative to using force;
  • The size, gender and physical capabilities of the parties; and
  • The history and relationship of the parties.

In essence, self-defence is available as a defence to the extent the accused person, objectively, had to defend themselves (or another person). The force used must not be excessive. As lawyers with more than 30 years defending all types of assault charges, we have the experience to assess cases before they get to trial. In appropriate cases, we are able to persuade Crown counsel to not proceed with the prosecution, to proceed on a lesser charge, or to persuade the judge to grant a discharge, rather than enter a conviction against our client.

Start with a free consultation.

If you are being investigated by police or if you’ve been charged with a criminal or driving offence, don’t face the problem alone. Being accused of an offence is stressful. The prospects of a criminal record or jail sentence can be daunting. Even if you think there is no defence, we may be able to help. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Vancouver lawyers, contact us now.