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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 18 months in jail. 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. P.S.A. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to direct Crown counsel to gaps in the police investigation resulting in Crown deciding to not approve any charge in this matter. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.J. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charge: Driving While Prohibited. Issue: Whether the crown…

R. vs. M.L. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault; Uttering Threats (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client achieved under our direction, whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to stay the charges.  All restrictive conditions removed. No criminal record.

R. vs. C.S. - Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to point to a lack of evidence with respect to the charge resulting in Crown counsel entering a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. N.D. - Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Sexual Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to direct Crown counsel to various flaws in the prosecution's case. On the eve of a 4 day trial, Crown agreed to resolve this matter by way of a nine month Peace Bond. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Driving While Prohibited.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown counsel to proceed on this charge, which carries a mandatory minimum 12 month driving prohibition.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser offence of driving without a valid driver's licence. After hearing Mr. johnson's submissions, the court imposed a $500 fine. No driving prohibition.

R. vs. B.C. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal charge.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown counsel to stay the criminal charge. Our client entered into a Peace Bond for a period of 9 months. No criminal record.

R. vs. Z.H. - Port Coquitlam Youth Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether, given the history between our client and the complainant, it was reasonable for our client apply  the level of force he used.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade Crown to not approve any criminal charge but, rather, to resolve the matter through Restorative Justice. No criminal record.

Y.Y. vs. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles - Review of Driving Prohibition

Charge: Notice of Intent to Prohibit.
Issue: Whether RoadSafety BC had appropriate reasons to prohibit our client from driving for 4 months.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to persuade the Superintendent's adjudicator that the 4 month driving prohibition was not warranted. The driving prohibition was reduced to 2 months.

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

Charges: Assault (x2); Threatening; Breach of Undertaking (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether it was appropriate for the Court to convict him.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown to proceed on only a single count of assault. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.  

R. vs. D.I. - Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Dangerous Driving Causing Bodily Harm; Driving Without Due Care and Attention.
Issue: Whether it was appropriate for Crown to charge our client under the Criminal Code or the Motor Vehicle Act in regard to an accident where our client's vehicle struck a cyclist from behind, causing serious injury.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown which resulted in Crown proceeding under the Motor Vehicle Act. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court sentenced our client to a $1000 fine and limited his ability to drive for 12 months. No criminal conviction. No loss of insurance coverage. No jail.

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

Charge: s. 810 Peace Bond Application.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether the complainant continued to have fear of our client.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to withdraw its Peace Bond application. No conditions. No 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.