Public Law

Section 2

Lesson 6: Crime

You have probably spent a good deal of time at this stage in life thinking about what you are going to do for a living when you have finished school. Has being a career criminal ever entered your mind? Hopefully, you answered that question with a resounding No! The fact is that virtually nobody sets out in life with the intention of becoming a criminal-and yet our jails are full. Why? People can fall into criminal activities for different reasons, of course, and doing so may be easier than you think. This lesson will run through a sampling of activities that could land a person in prison.

Offences Against People

Offences against people include violent crimes in which the victim is threatened, endangered, hurt, or killed. These offences account for approximately 10 percent of all crimes reported annually. The most violent offence against another person is, of course, murder, but what about more common offences?


The legal definition of assault in Canada is very broad. It includes intentionally using force against another person, threatening someone, and displaying a weapon when interfering with another person's movements.

Assault: as a criminal offence, the deliberate application of force to another or the threat to apply it; as a tort, the threat of applying force to another.

Shaking a fist at another person, pushing someone-even spitting at a person-can be an assault. Of course, as you know, for an act to be criminal there must be an intent (or, in some cases, just an awareness of the likely consequences). If an action is accidental, careless, or the result of a reflex response, it's not an assault.

What is an assault?

The definition of assault is found in the Criminal Code in section 265. Generally an assault occurs when a person directly or indirectly applies force intentionally to another person, or who attempts or threatens to do so without consent.

What degree of force is required to assault somebody?

A person need not harm someone for an assault to occur. An accused may commit an assault although he exerts no degree of strength or power when touching the victim. The force however must be offensive or an affront to an individual's dignity. A push or pinch may be sufficient to establish an assault.

What if I accidentally hit someone?

The application of force must be intentional. Accidentally hitting someone during the course of an epileptic seizure, for example, would not constitute an assault. However accidentally hitting one person in an attempt to hit another is not a defense to assault. It does not matter who the intended victim is, as long the offender intended to apply force to any individual, it is still an assault.

What is the difference between an assault, an assault with a weapon, an assault causing bodily harm and an aggravated assault?

The difference between an assault and an assault with a weapon is the vehicle used to deliver the force.

Generally an assault or "simple assault" is caused by the application of force from a person's extremities such as hands, legs, or feet.

An assault with a weapon generally involves the application of force with an inanimate object such as a stick, bat, knife, or object thrown and can even be delivered by something other than an inanimate object including a dog ordered to attack a person.

The difference between assault, assault causing bodily harm or aggravated assault is the harm suffered as a result of the application of force. An assault that causes any hurt or injury that is not transient or trifling in nature and interferes with the complainant's health or comfort will meet the definition of bodily harm. In order for an assault to meet the definition of an aggravated assault, the injury must be much more substantial. Any sort of injury that wounds, maims, disfigures or endangers the life of another meets the definition of an aggravated assault. The amount of harm caused by an assault will likely dictate the type of sentence imposed by the judge. While some "simple assault" charges may not result in any jail time, an aggravated assault charge may result in a sentence amounting to several years in jail depending on the severity of the injuries inflicted on the complainant.

The penalties for committing assault vary with the severity of the incident. Simple assault convictions can result in imprisonment for up to a maximum of five years as well as a hefty fine. A conviction for assault causing bodily harm can entail up to ten years in prison along with a fine, while aggravated assault can put a person behind bars for up to 14 years.

Judge declares mistrial in aggravated assault case

By CBC News

A mistrial was declared only hours after a jury trial began Tuesday in a Moncton courtroom for a man charged with aggravated assault.

Daniel Carl Ferris, of Moncton, N.B., is accused of stabbing Kofi Ampong in the neck and chest outside the Voodoo Nightclub on Mountain Road in 2007.

Court of Queen's Bench Justice George Rideout ended the trial when he learned that a police report had mistakenly ended up in a folder of information given to two jury members.

Two other jurors also saw the information, which had been ruled inadmissible as evidence at the trial, the judge said.

Rideout said he reluctantly declared the mistrial, but said he believed that Ferris's right to a fair trial had been compromised.

The judge ordered that Ferris remain behind bars while a new trial date is chosen.

Before the mistrial was ordered, Crown prosecutor Remi Allard said he planned to prove that Ferris stabbed Ampong on Sept. 1, 2007, after the two men got into a disagreement at a bar.

After the bar closed, the prosecutor said, Ampong was in the parking lot where he was struck from behind. When Ampong turned around, he was sprayed in the face.

Ampong then fell to the ground, and was surrounded by several people who kicked him. One of those people stabbed him three times in the chest and neck. He is now a quadriplegic.

Ampong, originally from Ghana, moved to New Brunswick in 2001 to study economics at St. Thomas University. He then moved to Dieppe, located just outside of Moncton, after graduation.

Sexual Assault

A number of sexually related offences that used to be in the Criminal Code were replaced in 1983 with the offence of sexual assault. One of these was rape, a term that no longer has legal relevance in Canada but that is still sometimes used in everyday speech. There are three levels of sexual assault:

  • assault in relation to sexual conduct (for example, molesting)
  • sexual assault with a weapon or sexual assault causing bodily harm
  • aggravated sexual assault (in which the perpetrator injures or endangers the life of the victim)