Spousal Assault and Peace Bonds

Police intervention in families during a family breakup is relatively common.  More often than not, one of the parties contacts the police during a heated argument, in the spur of the moment, and without actually appreciating the consequences. 

The problem is that once the police are called, the situation can escalate to new territory that neither party intended to explore. 

Let’s examine the case of John Doe (actual client name is withheld). 

John was together with his spouse for about 10 years in an emotionally charged relationship.  Arguments were common during their decade-long relationship, but there was no physical violence. 

One day, as the parties were preparing to go to bed, and having a heated discussion, Jane, the wife slapped John on his chest; the strike was hard enough to leave a bruise.  John, perturbed by the strike, decided to leave the family residence. 

On his way to his parents’ home, he decided to stop at the local police precinct and report the incident. He did not want Jane charged, but he wanted the police to take note of his bruise.  Five days later, John was charged with assault. 

It turns out that the police had attended with Jane to investigate John’s bruise.  Jane was surprised and startled by the police visit and immediately told the police that she was simply defending herself, even though John was the one sporting the bruise. 

The police chose to charge John – and not Jane.

At trial, Jane admitted that John had, in fact, not hit her at all, and that she had hit him.  The charges were dropped but not before substantial legal expenses and 6 months of extreme stress for John, and to a lesser extent for Jane.

In John’s case, a Peace Bond was not an option because John denied the assault; he did not want to enter into a Peace Bond to settle the matter.  John was concerned that entering into a Peace Bond would amount to an admission, a moral admission and not a legal admission, that he had done something wrong.  He was prepared to spend money on legal fees to see the case to its rightful end. 

More often than not, individuals facing assault charges will prefer to resolve matters through a Peace Bond.  Trading a Peace Bond for the Crown dropping a criminal charge can significantly reduce legal fees, while at the same time shortening the time when a criminal charge hangs over someone’s head. 

Trading a Peace Bond for the withdrawal of a criminal charge provides a measure certainty for the accused.  Although the facts may not appear to favour a conviction, trials can produce unexpected results.  Certainty of outcome is a significant factor not to be ignored in these cases. 

However, entering into a Peace Bond is not without its own set of consequences. In the context of a Parenting Time application, a Peace Bond may be perceived by the Court as cautionary warning that the Court needs to treat the accused cautiously.  The Peace Bond may have conditions which the accused must avoid breaching, whereas the accuser may take advantage of the Peace Bond to allege a breach. And finally, entering a Peace Bond leaves a perception that the accused may have actually participated in an assault, when possibly, that was not the case.