Friday, May 13, 2016

Peace Bonds

A peace bond is a court order in which a person who has threatened or
harmed you agrees to stop the threatening or harmful behaviour and to stay
away from you. Broadly put it is an order to keep the peace and be on
good behaviour for a period of a year or less. Peace bonds usually have
other conditions too, such as not having any weapons or staying away from
a person or place. A peace bond gives some level of protection for people
who have a genuine fear for their safety; while not perfect they are
reasonably effective.

Someone who signs a peace bond is not admitting to a crime. Most commonly
peace bonds come up as part of a resolution of criminal charges. For
example, someone is charged with assault. It may be that justice and the
community would be better served by not having a criminal trial. In such a
case, if the accused and the prosecution are agreeable the accused may
sign a peace bond to stay out of trouble and leave specified individuals
alone in return for which the assault charge is withdrawn or stayed.

Peace bonds can also be ordered without any criminal charges pending. A
person who feels they have been threatened asks a justice of the peace to
order a peace bond. The justice must be convinced there are grounds to
believe the person seeking a peace bond has reason to fear for their
safety or the safety of their family. The Criminal Code provides:

"An information may be laid before a justice by or on behalf of any person
who fears on reasonable grounds that another person will cause personal
injury to him or her or to his or her spouse or common-law partner or
child or will damage his or her property."

Unless reasonable fears are shown to the justice of the peace there will
not be a peace bond.

After hearing the evidence, the justice of the peace may order the person
against whom a peace bond is sought to appear in court. Unless there is a
consent to the peace bond being issued there will be a hearing to
determine whether a peace bond should issue. A peace bond is not ordered
lightly so there must be a real risk of harm shown.

The Criminal Code says:

"A justice who receives an information ... shall cause the parties to
appear before him (and) if satisfied by the evidence adduced that the
person on whose behalf the information was laid has reasonable grounds for
his or her fears, order that the defendant enter into a recognizance, with
or without sureties, to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for any
period that does not exceed twelve months, and comply with such other
reasonable conditions prescribed...".

If a peace bond is ordered it is very important to follow any conditions
set out in a peace bond. If one or more of the conditions of a peace bond
are broken the person can be charged with a separate criminal offence of
"breach of recognizance" or "disobeying a court order." Such "breach"
charges are taken very seriously and jail time is often imposed for them.

Peace bonds also come with a pledge of money. Generally, no money is
actually deposited with the Court but an extra penalty for breaching the
peace bond is the requirement to pay the amount set out. Normally the
amount pledged is in the range of $500 to $1,000 dollars. That said, the
loss of the pledged amount is likely the least of the penalties that
follow a breach of a peace bond.


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