Today, we delve into the legal aspects of mutual physical fights—instances where two individuals consensually agree to engage in a physical altercation. Whether between intimate partners or strangers, clients often wonder if this mutual agreement serves as a valid defence.

Key Considerations

  • Consent and Injury:
    • No Bodily Harm: If the physical altercation does not result in bodily harm, this may be considered a defence. The landmark case of R. v. Jobidon establishes that mutual fights without bodily harm should not result in a criminal conviction.
    • Bodily Harm Definition: Bodily harm, as per the Criminal Code, is broadly defined and can include even minor injuries such as bruises. If bodily harm occurs, the mutual agreement does not serve as a defence.
  • Defending the Charge:
    • Self-Defence:  In cases involving bodily harm, the primary defence is creating a reasonable doubt that the actions were in self-defence. If the accused can demonstrate a genuine need to protect themselves, it may impact the outcome.
  • Legal Complexity:
    • No Cancellation of Assaults: It’s crucial to understand that if one person is charged with assault in a mutual fight,  it  does preclude the other person from also being charged.
    • Each party may face charges independently, and the mutual nature of the altercation does not nullify the legal consequences if bodily harm was caused.

Legal Reality

While there might be a perception that engaging in a mutual fight without severe consequences is possible,  the legal reality differs. If law enforcement becomes involved and bodily harm is evident, charges under the Canadian Criminal Code are likely. A plea of self-defence becomes crucial in navigating such legal complexities.

In conclusion, the legality of mutual physical fights depends on the presence of bodily harm and the application of the principle of self-defence. Seeking legal advice is essential for individuals facing charges arising from consensual altercations.

For more legal insights, explore our informative video resources.

Video Transcription:

I want to talk to you today a little bit about mutual physical fights. That is where two people agree to engage in fisticuffs or a wrestling match or a fight of some sort and this sometimes can occur between husband and wife of course and clients of mine will get charged, whether it’s the man or the woman that’s accusing them of assaulting them and they will say look it is a mutual fight. We consented. We were slapping each other or grabbing or punching each other. We both started at the same time and it was both consented to or two people on the street for example or two people at a bar and the client says “is that a valid defence?” It’s not self-defence because it was agreed to. You’re not defending yourself. The short answer to this question is sometimes it’s a defence and sometimes it’s not. It is a defence if you didn’t cause any injuries to the other person. They didn’t suffer any bodily harm, for example. You are allowed to engage in a mutual fight if there’s no bodily harm and that’s a case called Jobidon, R. v. Jobidon which is a higher court decision in Canada.Now if there is bodily harm and bodily harm by the way unfortunately has been defined at a very low level. I’ve seen bruises be defined as bodily harm even minor bruises. Some Judges will even bend over backwards if they’re really minor to say that’s not bodily harm but I’ve seen it. Certainly anything beyond bruises is clearly bodily harm. So the bottom line it’s not a defence if you’re causing injuries in that regard defined as bodily harm under the Criminal Code.So it’s not like the mutual fight, one assault cancels out the other either. It’s not like it’s just going to go away. So the way to defend that type of charge is not necessarily by mutual. It wasn’t mutual or consented it if was bodily harm. We have to plead guilty. The only way to defend that type of charge is if it was truly acting in self-defence.

So that’s the law of consent and bodily harm when it comes to mutual fights. Whether it’s a husband and wife, intimate partners or strangers in a bar for example and that can be troubling for some people because a lot of people are under the impression that you can engage in a fight. It’s a mutual fight, cause a black eye and just walk away. Well not if the guy, person, man or woman calls the police. You’re going to be charged with an assault under our Canadian Criminal Code and you would likely be convicted unless it was in self-defence.

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