Assault is viewed as an offence of violence. While it is commonly associated with an exchange of blows, the offence encompasses a vast array of conduct. Assault is defined in the Criminal Code as a non-consensual application of force to another. This may entail punches, kicks, even a shove. Actual physical contact is not always required as an attempt or threat to apply force to another grounds the offence as well.
The offence varies in severity depending upon the nature of the injuries that resulted as well whether a weapon was utilized. A common assault involves an application of force where little to no injuries were produced. Assault causing bodily harm requires that the Crown prove that the complainant suffered an injury that interferes with their health or comfort that is more than trifling in nature. The relevant case law suggests that this can be proven by severe bruising, concussions, sprained ligaments, or broken bones. That said, the offence of aggravated assault involves injuries that wound, maim, disfigures, or endangers the life of the complainant.
An essential element of the offence of assault requires the Crown to demonstrate that the force utilized was non-consensual in nature. As such, they must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the act was not consented to by the complainant. This becomes problematic for the Prosecution when participants engage in a consensual fist fight as we often see at house parties or nightclubs. While two participants can willingly engage in a consensual fight, any such consent will be vitiated if non-trivial bodily harm results.
Lastly, actions that constitute an assault will result in an acquittal if they are shown to be justified. In the context of an assault allegation, the Criminal Code contains numerous defences to such charges. These include self defence, defence of others and defence of property. Should these defences be advanced, the Court will analyze the nature of the threat, its imminence, the history of the relationship as well as the proportionality of the response. While the consequences of a conviction for this offence are considerable, counsel with knowledge of the proceedings and Criminal Code provisions is an invaluable asset.