Assault is described in the Criminal Code of Canada as follows:

265 (1) A person commits an assault when

(a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly;

(b) 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

(c) while openly wearing or carrying a weapon or an imitation thereof, he accosts or impedes another person or begs. There must be a lack of consent for an assault to have taken place. Assault can occur in many forms. It can include touching or mere threats, as long as the person threatened is reasonably afraid for their safety or the safety of others.

The harm complained of must be more than merely trifling in nature, but can also include purely psychological harm.


Some common defences to an assault charge include:

  • Self Defence
  • Defence of Property
  • Duress
  • Consensual Fight

In most cases the actions of the Accused must have been reasonable and proportionate in the circumstances.

In the case of a consensual fight, or for example rough play in a sporting game, it must be shown that the particular nature of the contact was expected and consented to. For example, an accused cannot rely on the defence of a consensual fight if they used a weapon where only a fist fight was expected.

More serious forms of assault include:

  • Aggravated Assault – which is an assault that results in wounding, maiming, disfiguring or endangering of life of the complainant by the accused as set out in s. 268(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada
  • Assault with a weapon – This can include almost any object that was used to cause harm to the complainant. Even a television, or a pen
  • Assault causing Bodily Harm – this charge differs from simple assault in that “consent” or lack thereof is not an element of the charge. This means that it cannot be raised as a defence either.

These offences are indictable and therefore the police have the power to arrest and detain an individual accused.


The penalties for an assault vary widely, because there are so many forms of assault. Additionally, sentencing takes into account the circumstances, whether the occurrence was in the heat of the moment, whether the accused was provoked, and the accused’s criminal history of related charges. The result can be an absolute discharge, a conditional discharge, a probation order conditional sentence, or a short to long jail term.

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