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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. V.B. – Vancouver Provincial Court

.Charges: Assault; Uttering Threats (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our client through, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information to Crown counsel on our client's behalf which resulted in Crown deciding to enterr a stay of proceedings on both charges. Stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

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

Charges: Assault of a Peace Officer.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for our client to be granted a discharge for his actions in spitting in the face of an RCMP officer at the Vancouver Airport.
Result: Mr. Gauthier presented information to the Court and after hearing his submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal record.

R. vs. F.S. – North Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Theft Under $5000.
Issue: Whether Crown could prove the number and value of the electronic devices they alleged our client stole from his workplace.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to allege that the theft involved  only 7 devices worth only $1000. After hearing Mr. Mines submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. M. G. – Sechelt RCMP investigation

Charges: Criminal harassment; Distributing intimate images without consent.
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove the circumstantial evidence they sought to rely on and whether jail was the  appropriate sentence.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to convince Crown counsel to not rely on much of the aggravating evidence and, on our client's guilty plea to not seek a jail sentence. After hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence with probation. No jail.

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

Charges: Criminal harassment; Distributing intimate images without consent.
Issue: Whether the Crown could prove the circumstantial evidence they sought to rely on and whether jail was the  appropriate sentence.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to convince Crown counsel to not rely on much of the aggravating evidence and, on our client's guilty plea to not seek a jail sentence. After hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence with probation. No jail.

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

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issues: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction and whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the prosecution.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown counsel that resulted in Crown electing to stay the proceedings and to end the prosecution. No criminal record.

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

Charge: Assault with a weapon.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to provide information to Crown counsel which resulted in Crown deciding to end the prosecution not approve any charges.  No criminal record.

R. vs. J.L. – UBC RCMP Investigation

Charges: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of obtaining a criminal conviction and whether it was in the public interest for police to recommend charges.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to provide information to police whic resulted in police closing their investigation. No charges recommended. No criminal record.

R. vs. T.A. – West Shore RCMP investigation

Charge: Assault (Domestic).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the Crown to proceed with a criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information to Crown Counsel that convinced them not to approve charges against the client. No criminal prosecution. No criminal record.

R. vs. J.S. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Sexual Assault (reduced to common assault.)
Issue: Whether Crown counsel could prove that our client touched the complainant for a sexual purpose.
Result: Mr. Mines was able tp persuade Crown counsel that our client did not intend to touch the complainant in a sexual manner. The Crown agreed to proceed on the lesser charge of common assault and, after hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Judge granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction. No jail. No sex offender registry.

R. vs. N.R. – Sechelt Provincial Court

Charge: Assault Causing Bodily Harm.
Issue: Whether it was in the pubic interest for our client to be sentenced to a conditional discharge for this offence which resulted in a serious facial cut to the complainant.

R. vs. S.K. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Assault with a Weapon, Breach of a Release Order.
Issue: Whether our client could be released on bail given Crown's concerns for his willingness to attend court and potential to commit further offences.
Result: Mr. Johnston was able to persuade the Judge to release our client on the least onerous conditions.

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.