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Peacebonds: Section 810 of the Criminal Code and at Common Law

A Peacebond is a court order requiring a specific individual to “keep the peace and be of good behaviour”. A peacebond is not a conviction and it will not appear on your criminal record. However, a peacebond can restrict your liberty. Sometimes, in addition to requiring that the recipient “keep the peace and be of a good behaviour”, a peacebond will also set out specific conditions intended to protect a person or a specific type of property. Generally speaking, a s. 810 peacebond is Canada’s version of a “restraining order”. The most common conditions contained in peacebonds require that the recipient not be within a specific distance of a particular person or that person’s family, refrain from going near a person’s property, not communicate with a specified person or that person’s family, and/or that the recipient not be in possession of any weapons or firearms. A peace bond can be issued either under s. 810 of the Criminal Code or under the common law. Section 810 Peacebonds

Section 810 allows any individual to apply to the court for a peacebond against any individual whom they reasonably believe poses a threat to their personal safety, the safety of their spouse or child, or their personal property. An application can be made at any time and it is not necessary for the applicant to initiate criminal proceedings against the potential recipient. The main requirement is that the applicant fears, on reasonable grounds, that the potential recipient may hurt the applicant, in some way. This includes not only physical harm but also harm of a sexual nature and damage to property. Section 810 specifically requires that the applicant’s fear be based on “reasonable grounds”. A judge will determine whether the applicant’s fear is reasonable on a case-by-case basis taking into account several factors such as: any threats made by the potential recipient, any past violent behaviour on the part of the potential recipient towards the applicant or others, the relationship between the applicant and the potential recipient, and any other relevant factor. If the judge is satisfied that it is more likely than not that the potential recipient poses a harm to the applicant, the judge will order that the defendant enter into a peacebond to keep the peace and be of good behaviour. Once the judge is satisfied that a s. 810 peacebond should be issued, i.e., that the recipient poses a threat to the applicant in some way, he or she is obligated to consider including conditions limiting the recipients ability to interact with the applicant, communicate with the applicant, or posses any weapons or firearms.

Section 810 also includes special rules for applicants who reasonably fear that another individual may commit an act of terrorism, a sexual offence against the applicant, or inflict serious personal injury to the applicant. Common Law Peacebonds

A common law peacebond, on the other hand, can only arise in the context of a criminal trial. Every judge has what is known as a “common law power” to order that a defendant enter into a peacebond. Thus, even if a judge is not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant in a criminal matter is guilty, that judge may issue a peacebond against the defendant to protect the complainant from any future harm or retaliation for laying criminal charges. In situations like this, the peacebond is not a finding of guilt and will not appear on the defendant’s criminal record. In minor cases, the Crown Attorney’s office may withdraw a charge in exchange for the defendant agreeing to enter into a peacebond. However, according to the Crown Policy Manual, the Crown Attorney’s Office will agree to a peacebond as an acceptable remedy for domestic abuse only in “the most unusual of circumstances”.

A section 810 peacebond can be issued for a maximum of one year, while the duration of a common law peacebond is at the discretion of the court. The conditions contained in the peacebond can be relaxed at any time during the life of the peacebond. A criminal defence lawyer can help you to negotiate with the Crown Attorney’s Office to relax the terms of either type of peacebond. If a peacebond is ordered against you and you refuse to enter into the peacebond (by refusing to sign it) you can be charged under the Criminal Code and liable to 12 months imprisonment. Failing to comply with the conditions of a peacebond is also a criminal offence.

19 Dec 2009

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