I want to talk to you today a little bit about peace bonds. There’s common law peace bonds and there’s statutory peace bonds under section 810 of the Criminal Code. And I want to give you an example. A client comes to me and they’re charged with say domestic assault for example, and they say to me at the first meeting, “Will I be able to get a peace bond? Should I enter into a peace bond?” This is a very good question.
So first of all the person is potentially facing a criminal record with an assault charge. So when we get the disclosure we examine it in conjunction with their version of events and figure out what are the odds of winning this case. And you have to look at things on a cost benefit analysis. If we go to trial what are the odds of winning? What are the client’s instructions? What should we do? Well a peace bond is potentially one way out if I might make it clear, for the client. And what would happen is if the Crown perceives that they don’t have the strongest case to win, they might in say some cases offer say a peace bond. A peace bond is not a criminal conviction. It’s an order, if you enter into a peace bond it’s an order from the court that you keep the peace and be of good behaviour for up to a period of 12 months under section 810 and not communicate with the alleged victim.
So the grounds to enter a peace bond are that the victim, the alleged victim has at least reasonable fears that you’ll cause them harm. What are the negatives about this? Well first of all, in many situations this is a great deal. There is no question. You are avoiding a criminal record, you’re entering into a peace bond. That’s wonderful.
The problem in the province has become this a little bit, particularly in the recent past. Some people that entered into peace bonds found that the police were still disclosing that on police checks and vulnerable sector checks so it was ruining their employment. There was a very interesting article a couple of years ago in the Toronto Star about this. Because everybody is saying, “Look it’s just a peace bond”. A lot of lawyers think just enter into it yet many people had their lives ruined by entering into peace bonds. You should read my blog on this topic whether accessing a peace bond is risky. This prompted, among other things about disclosure of records, this prompted some recent change in the laws about this as to what the police can or cannot disclosure. Some counties they were disclose too much and in other counties they wouldn’t disclose a peace bond and apparently they decided to clean this up. It remains to be seen though whether this legislation will be effective.
So the bottom line is when I counsel clients if we’re offered a peace bond, whether we should enter into it we have to look at all the risk factors. We have to look at the odds of winning versus losing the case and decide if it’s right for them. In many cases it will be. In other cases it may not be. For example, if there’s no chance of losing the trial why would you enter into a peace bond? That’s a rare situation. You know, there is always risks but don’t think of it as just a peace bond because there have been complications in the past. The government is trying and has tried to clear this up but it remains to be seen how this legislation will play out and perhaps in the future months or years I will do an updated video on how that legislation and the reform is going for what police forces disclose.
So in a nutshell that’s kind of some of the factors which go into whether you’re going to enter into a section 810 peace bond. There’s also a common law peace bond which is essentially the same thing but it’s not pursuant to the Criminal Code. It’s just an order from the Judge. It’s like a protection order. It protects the victim. It’s not a criminal conviction and you’ll have to sit down with your lawyer and see if it’s the right thing for you.