What does it mean to assault someone?

Date: June 28, 2016

Section 265 of the Criminal Code of Canada covers the crime of Assault. There are three things that you can be convicted of Assault for:

  • without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;
  • he attempts or threatens, by an act or a gesture, to apply force to another person, if he has, or causes that other person to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose; or
  • while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs.

The most common Assault charges are the first type where a person actually makes contact with another person. To prove a charge of this kind the Crown must prove three elements of the offence:

  • First, that the accused applied force to the complainant. The use of force in the means something different than its common usage. Force in this context just means that the accused made some kind of contact with the complainant. This can be anything from a violent punch down to a push or a shove. Even bumping against someone on the street would count as force.
  • Second that the accused intended to apply the force to the complainant. Assault is what is known as a general intent offence. This means that an accused need to intend what specifically happened just that their actions weren’t involuntary. For general intent offences the courts have said that you are considered to intend the foreseeable results of your actions.
  • Finally, the Crown must prove that the complainant did not consent to the contact or force. This means that they did not agree to the accused touching them.

There are a number of defences that are available to those charged with Assault. The first and most well-known is self-defence. By law, you are allowed to defend yourself from the assaults of others when reasonable. Another defence that is often raised is mistaken belief in consent. This usually arises in cases of Sexual Assault but could be used in Assault cases as well. And while not a defence in the strictest sense, the principle of de minimis can arise in Assault cases. This principle means that if the conduct is trifling or significantly minor it is not a cause for the courts to interfere.


*Note: The information on this page is for general knowledge and is not legal advice.