Police forces across Ontario are collecting information on citizens that does not necessarily pertain to an actual criminal conviction. This information may have negative implications for individuals in the event of a background check, especially when seeking employment.
An astounding fifty percent of employers in Ontario now require ‘’police record checks’’ (“PRC”). A PRC is a criminal record check as well as a search of the records held in the information database of a local police agency. This means that individual police forces will disclose information that surrounds any alleged and unproven “criminal type activity” which did not result in a criminal record to prospective employers. Therefore, it is highly recommended that anyone who is being offered a “peace bond” should immediately contact a skilled criminal lawyer to investigate their options before making a decision.
In Canadian law, a peace bond is an order from a criminal court that requires a person to keep the peace and be of good behavior for a period of time. This essentially means that the person must not be charged with a criminal offence for the period specified. There is usually also a condition that the person not be allowed to communicate or associate with the complainant.
If a person is charged with a criminal offence such as assault, the Crown will sometimes offer that the criminal charge be withdrawn if she or he enters into a peace bond. For example, if the Crown perceives there are weaknesses in their case, they might offer this type of resolution. The benefit of a peace bond is that the person does not wind up with a criminal record.
As attractive as it may appear, entering into a peace bond significantly reduces the chances of securing employment. For example, a person who is in nursing school or another professional program could be barred from that profession. Thousands of Canadians who do not have a criminal record have been turned down for jobs because of an existing ‘police record’.
Since there is no standardized legislation in Ontario, individual police forces have varied policies in relation to the information that is released in a PRC. Some police forces will disclose the fact that a person was investigated for a crime that did not result in criminal charges. Statistics have shown that one in every three Canadians has a police record that includes negative information and, unfortunately, this information may be released to prospective employers.
There are two types of peace bonds. A judge can order a person to enter into a common law peace bond or a s. 810 Criminal Code recognizance which basically result in the same restrictive orders. A s. 810 Criminal Code recognizance is a formal agreement made by an individual before a justice of the peace for a specified period of time to complete the conditions set out in the recognizance (i.e. typically to keep the peace and be of good behavior and to not communicate or associate with the complainant or attend at their place of employment or residence as stated above). A s. 810 Criminal Code recognizance is somewhat similar to a civil restraining order. It acts as an agreement to limit activities potentially including an order to stay away from family members, former friends or neighbours.
Unbelievably, both types of peace bonds can actually permanently appear on the Canadian CPIC system and be disclosed to employers. The peace bond may also contain disparaging and potentially unproven statements such as “suspected of illegal activity, “known to be violent”, “hates the police”, “has suicidal tendencies” or “has mental health disorders”. This terminology may appear on the individual’s police record and ultimately prevent a person from being employed.
For example, consider the case of a student fresh out of medical school who decides to begin seeking internship. The new graduate is subsequently required by the prospective employer to submit a police record for review. When the record is received, it expresses that the student was not charged with an offence, but had entered into a peace bond. Unfortunately, the peace bond could be regarded as an equivalent to a criminal record and the unsuspecting person may be barred from this profession.
For this reason, extreme caution must be adhered to before anyone is advised to enter into a peace bond. For example, a person who is involved in a domestic assault case and has a good chance of winning, should carefully consider whether or not he or she should enter into a peace bond versus proceeding to trial. The very fact that the Crown is offering a peace bond in a domestic assault situation (which rarely happens in the Ontario courts pursuant to Crown policies and directives), usually means there is little or no reasonable prospect of conviction. An agreement to enter into a peace bond may change their lives for the worse and have negative implications for future employment.
Consequently, for students and individuals who plan on applying for a job in the future, if faced with this type of situation, they should ensure that their lawyer focuses on defending criminal charges and completely understands the consequence of entering into a peace bond. A lawyer who restricts their practice to defending criminal charges will be able to properly advise you regarding the best decision given your circumstances. However, if you have already entered into a peace bond and have verified that it does in fact show up on your police record, you should consider making an application to suppress the police record from being disseminated to members of the public.