Thursday, December 13, 2012
Peace Bonds are protection orders that a judge makes in court to help protect one person from another.
Peace bonds are not a substitute for a charge. They are intended to prevent assault and harassment.
What is a peace bond?
A peace bond is a protection order under the Criminal Code of Canada. The formal legal name is an “810 recognizance”. You can get a peace bond if you are afraid that another person will harm you, your partner (spouse or your common-law), your child, or damage your property. The other person could be anyone - a neighbour, an acquaintance or a family member. The peace bond is an order from the court, or an agreement that a person makes with the court, “to keep the peace and be of good behaviour”. That person is called the “defendant.” You can also ask that the peace bond set out other specific conditions.
What conditions can be in a peace bond?
To give a few examples, the defendant may agree or the court can order the defendant to:
•not visit you at home or at work;
•not call you on the phone;
•not write you letters or send you messages;
•not contact children, parents or other family members;
•not drive by your house;
•be prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition.
It is a crime to break any of the conditions of the peace bond.
How do I get a peace bond?
Go to the nearest police or RCMP station. Tell the police why you want a peace bond. You must have a good reason to believe that you or your children might be harmed, or your property damaged. The police will ask you to give a statement in writing. Be as specific as possible about your fear. State what the other person is doing that frightens you and why. Be sure to mention any conditions that would make you feel safer.
What happens next?
When the defendant goes to Court he or she can agree to sign the peace bond voluntarily. You will not have to be there. Court officials will notify you that the peace bond has been issued.
What if the defendant will not agree to sign the peace bond?
If the defendant will not agree to be bound by a peace bond, the judge must hold a hearing to decide whether to make an order for the peace bond. The Court will summons both you and the defendant to give evidence at the hearing.
What will happen at the court hearing?
The Crown prosecutor will ask you to take the stand. He or she will ask you questions about your fear for your safety under oath. The defendant will also have a chance to give evidence under oath. The defendant will explain why he or she does not agree with your reasons for feeling fearful. If the judge thinks you have a good reason to be afraid, she or he will issue the peace bond against the defendant. The judge will decide right away after listening to both sides. If the defendant does not show up, the judge can issue a warrant for his or her arrest. If the defendant refuses to sign the peace bond after it is ordered by a judge, he or she can go to jail for up to 12 months.
How long will the peace bond last?
The peace bond can last for up to one year. To get another peace bond after that year, you must have new evidence of your fear that the defendant will harm you, another family member or damage your property.
What is a “dual peace bond”?
Sometimes both parties claim that the other person is the aggressor, the one who should be keeping the peace. Although this is not common, the Courts will sometimes issue “dual” peace bonds, so that both of the parties are required to keep the peace and be of good behaviour to one another.
Do I get a copy of the peace bond?
You will not get one automatically. You must ask the court for a copy. It is a good idea to get a copy and carry it with you at all times. Give a copy to your local police or RCMP. If one of the conditions of the peace bond is the defendant not contact the children, be sure to give officials at the school or daycare a copy.
What if I move?
Generally, the police can enforce peace bonds anywhere across Canada. However, if you move or leave the territory, you should carefully review the conditions of your peace bond. For example, the peace bond may restrict the defendant from coming within a certain distance of your home at a specific address. If you move to a new address, you may not have continued protection. If you are uncertain whether your peace bond will apply in your new location, consult your local police or the RCMP. The police and RCMP can only enforce the terms of a peace bond as written. If necessary, you may have to ask for a modification of the peace bond, which could involve another hearing.
What should I do if the defendant breaks the conditions of the peace bond?
Call the police immediately. The police should lay charges because breaking a peace bond is a crime. The police can only enforce a peace bond if you let them know the defendant broke the conditions.
Will the defendant have a criminal record if I get the peace bond?
No, a peace bond is not a criminal charge. If the person named in the peace bond obeys all the conditions of the peace bond during its term, it will simply expire and nothing more will happen. But if the defendant breaks any condition of the peace bond, the police can charge him or her with a crime. If the court convicts a person of breaking the peace bond, he or she would have a criminal record. The person may get a fine, a jail term, or both.