Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Minor touching to de escalate a situation not assault

In Reid, [2004] O.J. No. 1641 (C.J.), the accused was acquitted on the charge of assault causing bodily harm where she took hold of the complainant's arm in the course of stepping outside of a residence to discuss a contentious matter with her, and the complainant fell down the stairs and broke her arm. The court, applying Wolfe (1974), 20 C.C.C.(2d) 382 (Ont.C.A.), found that the accused applied force as a "directional aid" and did not intend to or commit an act of assault.

In Johnson (Oct. 2, 2000), 48 W.C.B.(2d) 46 (Sask.Prov.Ct.), the accused was acquitted of assault where he had touched his wife's necklace to make the point that the matrimonial home, and all that the couple owned, were jointly held. The touching might have been a technical assault, but it was of such a trifling nature that the doctrine of de minimis non curat lex applied. The court also stated that there was no evidence to support a finding that the accused had intentionally applied force in the sense of a wrongful application.

In Lawrence, [2004] O.J. No. 3031 (C.A.) (endorsement), while stating that the general intent required for assault does not include an intent to cause discomfort to another person, the Court of Appeal restored the accused's acquittal where the alleged assault involved his having taken his wife's arm at the elbow. The court stated that it was a fact-driven case and that the trial judge, in essence, had a reasonable doubt that the accused intentionally applied more force than the ordinary touching that takes place with implied consent in a conjugal relationship. As the trial judge could not say whether he accepted the accused's evidence that he had touched his wife to guide her away from people so that they could have a discussion in private, just as he would guide her out to the dance floor, the court concluded that he was properly acquitted.

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