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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. M.P. – ICBC insurance fraud investigation.

Charge: Insurance fraud.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to steer our client through the investigation by helping our client rectify the fraudulent information that he had provided to I.C.B.C. No charges approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.B. – Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Causing Bodily Harm; Assault Police Officer.
Issue: Given our client's severe mental health issues, whether he was criminally responsible for the offences.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information about our client's mental health history to Crown counsel and, ultimately, was able to persuade Crown to end the prosecution. Stay of proceedings. No jail. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.H. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Mischief Under $5000.,br> Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information about our client to Crown counsel and was able to persuade Crown that there was no public interest in prosecuting this matter. No charge approved. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information about our client to Crown counsel and was able to persuade Crown that there was no public interest in prosecuting this matter. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. W.F. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether this road rage incident was a criminal offence or a consensual fight.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able to present Crown counsel with video evidence which confirmed that the complainant had engaged in a consensual altercation. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. K.Y. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether the 18 month jail sentence Crown had sought was reasonable in all the circumstances.
Result: Mr. Johnson provided information to the Crown and Court and ultimately persuaded the trial judge to sentence our client to a 7 month conditional sentence , followed ny 18 months probation. No jail.

R. vs. G.W. – North Vancouver RCMP Investigation

Charge: Assault with a weapon.
Issue: Whether there was sufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Johnson was able collect information from a defence witness and represent to police that our client should not  be prosecuted. Police concluded their investigation without recommending any criminal charge against our client. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.S. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Assault with a Weapon.
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we directed our client to complete, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown counsel to not approve any charge prior to the scheduled first court appearance. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.L. – Port Coquitlam Provincial Court

Charges: Possession of a loaded prohibited firearm; Unlawful storage of firearms.
Issue: Whether the warrant used to search our client's premises was lawful; whether our client posed a risk to re-offend.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to point to potential flaws in the warrant and police search which culminated in Crown's agreement to not pursue their original sentencing position of a 2-3 year jail sentence. Rather, the court accepted a joint submission of a 12 month conditional sentence with a curfew for the first six months. No jail.

R. vs. M.K.A. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault with a Weapon (x2).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the court to grant our client a conditional discharge.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to direct our client through a course of rehabilitative counselling, and after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the trial judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. K.D. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps that we were able to guide our client through, whether there was a public interest in continuing with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to amend the bail condition to allow "permissive contact" with the complainant, and after providing Crown with a report from our client's psychologist Crown counsel ended the prosecution. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.L. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Sexual assault; Unlawful Confinement; Assault by Choking.
Issue: Given the impact of the additional evidence that Mr. Johnson provided to Crown counsel, whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Crown counsel agreed that the new evidence significantly undermined the strength of the case.  Crown counsel entered a stay of proceedings, bringing the prosecution to an end. No jail. No 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.