Area of Law: Criminal Law
Answer # 1858
What to do if you are a victim of domestic assaultRegion: Ontario Answer # 1858
If you are in immediate danger, call 9-1-1 or your local police emergency number. The police can investigate the situation, arrest the alleged abuser, and help you get a peace bond or access victim services.
A peace bond is an order given by a criminal court under s. 810 of the Criminal Code. It can be used when a person gives evidence that they have a reasonable fear that their spouse or partner may hurt them. If a peace bond is granted by the court, it will contain conditions to prevent the ‘potentially’ abusive spouse (referred to as the defendant) from harming the other spouse or their children. If the defendant does not obey the conditions of the peace bond, they may face criminal charges to a maximum sentence of four years in prison. Peace bonds can last for up to one year and can be renewed after that if there is still a threat.
A peace bond may include many conditions, such as:
- To not contact or visit their spouse or child
- To not call or send text messages to their spouse or child
- To not own firearms or other weapons (or to surrender them to the police)
- To not use non-prescription drugs or alcohol
- To pay or promise to pay to the court a “surety” (amount of money to show that you intend to be bound by conditions imposed on you) that the defendant may not get back if they breach the conditions
- Any other condition the court considers to be beneficial
You can get a peace bond with or without the help of the police. If you do not want to go to the police, you may get the help of a lawyer or ask a clerk of your local Criminal Court for advice on how to apply to the Court for a peace bond. In court, you will need to present a sworn statement of why you have reason to fear that your spouse or partner will hurt you. The court will then set a hearing date, and you may have to serve a summons to the defendant, which means you must let them know about the application against them. You do not have to personally deliver this information yourself. If you go to the police for help, they will conduct an investigation against the defendant and go through the procedures required for a peace bond on your behalf. You may still be asked to testify (give evidence) before the court.
Protection Orders and Restraining Orders
A lawyer or your local victim services can help you get other, non-criminal, forms of legal protection. One example is a protection order or restraining order. These orders are civil (non-criminal) and can prevent your spouse from contacting you or your children. In addition, can also give you temporary exclusive occupation of the family home, which means that your spouse or partner will not be allowed to live there.
How you get a protection order will vary a little depending on what province or territory you live in. Generally, you must do the following:
- find the correct court house to go to,
- fill out an application form,
- in most cases, make sure notice of your application is served to your spouse or partner (though you do not have to personally deliver it),
- get a hearing date and go to court on that date to explain your case.
If the judge grants a protection or restraining order, make sure to obtain a copy.
Although restraining orders and protection orders generally have the same effect as peace bonds, restraining and protection orders have advantages because they can be obtained:
- quickly from your local Family Court (or police service in some areas),
- without your spouse knowing, and
- they are still enforceable by the police.
If you are not in immediate danger, you can also get help from a number of different places, such as victim services, community organizations, trusted friends or family, domestic violence helplines, or shelters for advice on what you want to do next.
Provincial links for help with domestic assault:
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Prince Edward Island
Federal Government of Canada: Help with family violence
The penalties for assault vary widely. If you have been charged with assault, or any criminal offence, contact our preferred experts:
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