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What Happens Now? Potential Outcomes of a Domestic Assault Charge in Pickering

How the “Domestic” Element Affects the Outcome

While there is no specific criminal act in the Criminal Code of Canada called “domestic assault,” some criminal charges such as assault are influenced by marital status, common-law partnerships, and dating relationships between the accused and the victim. Under section 716.2(ii) of the Criminal Code of Canada, if the accused and the victim are in such a relationship the police and Crown tend to treat the case more seriously.

Research found that in 2011 roughly 71% of Canadian domestic assault cases that were reported to police resulted in a charge, or at the very least a recommendation that charges be pressed. By comparison, in 2011 only 39% of non-domestic assaults reported to police resulted in a charge or recommendation of charges.[1] When police respond to cases of domestic assault, they are compelled by controversial mandatory charging policies to place charges on a suspected attacker, even if they are not entirely convinced of the need for such charges.[2] These policies, intended to provide an increased level of protection for victims, may also lead to charges where they are not completely warranted.

In cases of domestic assault, the Crown is required, under section 716.2(ii) of the Criminal Code of Canada, to treat the domestic relationship as an aggravating factor, meaning they will pursue a more severe punishment than they would for a non-domestic charge. For example, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada Deskbook outlines that only in rare circumstances should conditional discharges be considered as a potential outcome, as “such dispositions do not adequately reflect public denunciation of domestic violence and the need to deter such offenders”.[3]

Restrictions After Charges

After a charge has been placed, a series of heavy restrictions on the accused are likely to follow. The goal of the police and Crown is to protect the victim, protect any vulnerable third parties, such as children, and represent the public’s desire that domestic abusers be reprimanded.

As such, a charged individual is likely to be restricted, if not forbidden, from contact with the victim. Even attempts at third party contact, for example having a friend contact the victim in your stead, can be considered a violation.

It is possible that unsupervised contact with children will be restricted. It is likely that all firearms and ammunition owned, if any, will be confiscated by the police and purchase of these items in the future may be contingent on the outcome of the case. If contact with the victim is restricted, it’s likely that an accused will be forced to seek alternate residence for the duration of the trial if they shared a dwelling with the victim.

These restrictions can heavily tilt access to resources and public perception of the case in favour of the victim, something that Justice Pugsley noted in the case of Shaw v. Shaw.[4]

Potential Guilty Outcomes

Jail sentences are often what many assume to be the outcome of finding someone guilty of a crime such as assault. While a jail sentence is one possible outcome, there are others to consider.

For example, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada Deskbook encourages the Crown to consider probation as a recommended outcome for example, although the likelihood of this varies based on the severity of the violence. Those found guilty are likely to be banned from contacting the victim, purchasing or possessing firearms, and may require supervision during contact with children.

Often those found guilty are required to attend some form of counselling program, such as the Partner Assault Response (PAR). This restorative penalty is designed to educate participants on healthy relationships and avoiding violence.

If you have been charged with domestic assault it’s important to have a legal team that you can confidently trust with your defence in order to avoid or mitigate these types of outcomes.

Desirable Outcomes and Achieving Them

The earlier you obtain legal representation in your case proceedings the better. Experienced legal counsel can ensure that restrictions placed on you immediately following your charges are fair, do not violate your rights, and allow you to live with as few interruptions to your life as possible. A lawyer can also converse with the Crown to determine the strength of their case in order to negotiate potential dropping of charges or non-criminal sanctions such as a conditional or absolute discharge. For example, if your lawyer learns that the Crown has a weak case with little evidence, they may suggest a deal requiring a peace bond and mandatory counselling but which includes no criminal charges or penalties. Navigating a legal defence is a complex process, and one which should be done by knowledgeable lawyers.

If you’ve been charged with domestic assault in Pickering, your charges fall within the jurisdiction of the court of Oshawa. Aitken Robertson, located roughly 500 meters from the courthouse, has a team of lawyers with experience in not only criminal defence but defence of those charged with domestic assault. During your free 30-minute consultation our lawyers will walk you through how we can fight your charges for an affordable rate.

Footnotes

[1] Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile, Juristat & Maire Sinha, Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile [Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile].

[2] Johnson, H & DE Conners. The Benefits and Impacts of Mandatory Charging in Ontario: Perceptions of Abused Women, Service Providers and Police, rep. (Ottawa, ON, 2017).

[3] Pp. 451-460, Public Prosecution Service of Canada Deskbook

[4] Shaw v. Shaw, 2008 Ontario Court of Justice.

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