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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. 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

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.