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Assault causing bodily harm

Region: Ontario Answer # 1836

What is assault causing bodily harm?

A person can be convicted of the criminal offence of assault causing bodily harm when they have committed an assault and their actions cause bodily harm to another individual.

What is considered bodily harm?

A person causes bodily harm when they hurt or injure another person in a way that interferes with that person’s health or comfort. This interference has to be more than just short-term or a small nuisance, and needs to affect the person’s daily life. For example, if a person punches someone in the face and breaks their nose, that would be considered bodily harm. If you have been charged with a crime such as assault, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible.

What has to be proved for a conviction?

To convict someone of assault causing bodily harm, the Crown prosecutor needs to prove three crucial elements of the action:

  • The manner in which the assault was carried out, and the number of blows. For example, was the complainant assaulted with a fist, an open hand, a knife, etc.
  • That the accused intentionally used force on the complainant (it wasn’t an accident); and
  • The extent of the injuries that the complainant received. The mens rea of assault causing bodily harm does not require proof of a reasonable foreseeability that harm will occur.  All that is required is proof of an assault, that means an intentional application of force.

Legal defences to assault causing bodily harm

In law, the defence of consent cannot be mounted against a charge of assault causing bodily harm. For example, a person cannot legally consent to being bodily harmed, such as being stabbed or gravely injured in a fight.

The two most common defences to a charge of assault causing bodily harm are:

1. Self-defence

To be successful in proving self-defence, the accused must convince the court that:

  • He or she had reasonable grounds to believe that they were being assaulted; and
  • Given the circumstances, the accused’s actions were reasonable.

2. Accident

There are also situations where the physical contact was, in fact, an accident. Any unintentional application of force is not an assault, whether it is characterized as an accident, or simply the act of bumping into someone in a crowded hallway. In such cases, a person would not be guilty of assault because they did not have the required mental intention (called mens rea) to commit the assault.

It is the Crown Prosecutor’s responsibility to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt,  that the accused  intentionally applied force. For example, even in the case where an accused bumped into someone in a crowded hallway, and the complainant then suffered bodily harm, the Crown Prosecutor would still have to prove an intentional application of force.



Assault causing bodily harm is a hybrid offence. This means that the Crown prosecutor chooses whether the offence will be treated as a less serious summary conviction offence, or a more serious indictable offence. If found guilty on summary conviction, a person convicted of assault causing bodily harm will be liable to imprisonment for a maximum of eighteen months. If convicted on indictment, a person will be liable to imprisonment for a maximum of 10 years.

Get Help

If you have a criminal record and want to erase it, call toll-free 1-888-808-3628 or learn more at Pardon Partners. It’s easier than you think.

If you have been charged with a crime, a criminal defence lawyer experienced in representing people charged with assault will understand when and how to defend an individual case. The penalties for assault vary widely. If you have been charged with assault, or any other crime, it is important to hire an experienced criminal defence lawyer as soon as possible. Contact our preferred criminal defence expert, Calvin Barry Criminal Lawyers for a free consultation at 416-938-5858 .


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