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Assault

The Charge

Under s. 265 of the Criminal Code a person commits assault when they apply force directly or indirectly to another person without their consent. This includes threatening, by act or gesture, to apply such force to another person. Assault, therefore, covers all acts where force is actually applied (such as a slap, punch or kick) to situations where force is threatened (such as raising a fist). Assault is a hybrid offence, meaning Crown counsel has the option of proceeding by indictment, where the maximum penalty is 5 years imprisonment or, Crown may proceed summarily, where the maximum penalty is two years jail, less a day. There are no mandatory minimum penalties for Assault. We’ve been defending assault charges for more than 25 years. We understand that the majority of people charged with assault had no plan to commit an offence. Rather, people charged with assault usually find themselves in situations that rapidly escalate into a physical altercation. Often, alcohol or other intoxicants are involved. Sometimes serious injury occurs, leading to charges of assault causing bodily harm or aggravated assault. If a weapon, or an object as a weapon, is involved, people can be charged with assault with a weapon.

The Investigation

The nature of when and how a complaint is made to police will determine how the investigation unfolds. In some cases, for example when concerned patrons in a nightclub or pub see a fight break out, police are called and will attend quickly and make an arrest. In other cases, police may not receive a complaint for several days or longer. When this happens, police will contact the suspect by telephone or by attending at their home or workplace. No matter when police deal with the suspect, they will want to hear the suspect’s side of the story. As experienced criminal defence lawyers, this is where we can help clients understand that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees that people under police investigation have the right to remain silent.

In situations where clients contact us after the alleged assault incident, but before they are arrested, we can be of significant assistance. We will make enquiries to determine who the lead investigator is; we will then contact this officer and discuss the investigation on our client’s behalf. Because of the laws concerning solicitor/client privilege, we can act as a “buffer” between police and our client. We will strive to persuade police to not recommend any charges or, where police do want to pursue charges, we will strive to get police to agree to not arrest our client. Rather, we will endeavor to arrange that our client can appear in court to have the arrest warrant “deemed executed,” without the need for our client to be taken into custody.

Recent Successes

R. v. S.C. – Vancouver Police Investigation

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was credible evidence that would meet the charge approval standard.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information to the investigating officer that led the investigator to conclude that our client was not chargeable with a criminal offence. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. C.K. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Forcible Confinement (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our through, whether it was in the public interest for our client to be sentenced to a criminal record.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown to proceed only on the assault charge and, after hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R.M. vs. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles

Charge: 90 Day Immediate Roadside prohibition.
Issue: Whether the police report established, on balance, that our client had refused to provide a breath sample during a roadside impaired driving investigation.
Result: The adjudicator agreed with Mr. Mines' submissions that our client's evidence was more reliable than the evidence set out in the Police Report to the Superintendent. The 90 day driving prohibition was overturned and our client was ruled eligible to resume driving.

R. vs. E.W. – Fort Nelson Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a criminal conviction.
Result: Upon reviewing the allegations, Mr. Mines made representations to Crown counsel resulting in Crown agreeing that there was no reasonable prospect of convicting our client. No charges were approved. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Assault Peace Officer; Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to  persuade Crown counsel to allow our client into the Alternative Measures Program and to enter a stay of proceedings on both charges upon our client completing the program. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.S. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (from weapons charge).
Issue: Whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the prosecution of our client who had failed to complete a course of court ordered counselling.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to steer our client through an equivalent course of counselling. Upon completion, Crown counsel stayed the proceedings. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Mischief Causing Danger to Life.
Issue: Given the medical evidence Mr. Gauthier provided to Crown counsel, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Breaking & Entering; Unlawful Confinement; Assault.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the prosecution to continue against our client, a U.S. citizen who was in Canada on a visitor's visa.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on all charges upon our client agreeing to a Deportation Order. No criminal record.

R. vs. P.N. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Dangerous Driving Causing Death. Issue: Whether Crown could prove that our client had the necessary intent to prove that she was guilty of the criminal charge. Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed under the Motor Vehicle Act rather than the Criminal Code. After hearing Mr. Mines'  submissions, the Court sentenced our client to 60 days to be served on weekends. The Crown had originally sought a sentence in the range of 2 years.

R. vs. L.A. – New Westminster Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (from domestic assault charge).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to prosecute our client for failing to report and complete counselling.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to guide our client back onto an alternative course of rehabilitation and persuaded Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. M.K. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Uttering Threats; Extortion.
Issue: Given the age of the charges and the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether a jail sentence was appropriate.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to seek a non custodial sentence. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence and placed him on probation for 16 months. No jail.

R. vs. K.A. – Western Communities Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issues: Given the information we provided to Crown counsel regarding the complainant's past unlawful behaviour toward our client, whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: As a result of the information we provided, Crown counsel withdrew the charge. No further bail restrictions. No criminal record.

The Defence

Consent

To prove an assault charge, the Crown must prove that the accused person actually made, or intended to make, contact with the complainant and that the complainant did not consent. Therefore, for example, one possible defence to an assault charge is that the complainant actually consented to the contact. This type of defence may apply to an assault that is alleged in the context of a bar fight.

Another defence that is typically advanced in assault cases is formed under s. 34 of the Criminal Code – the rules of “self-defence.”

Self Defence

The law allows that if a person reasonably believes that force is being used (or threatened to be used) against them, they are allowed to use force to defend themselves, or another person, so long as the force they use is reasonable. In determining whether the force used is reasonable, 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.

Essentially, self-defence is available to the extent that the accused person objectively had to defend themselves (or another person) and that the force used was not excessive. We have over 25 years of courtroom experience defending assault charges. Our experience allows us to assess cases before they get to trial and, in appropriate cases, we are able to persuade Crown counsel to not proceed with the prosecution. This may result in our client being accepted into the alternative measures program, a peace bond or an outright stay of proceedings.

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.