What are Defences to an Assault Charge?


In an intentional application of force is found to have occurred, the Crown must prove that the person who was allegedly assaulted did not consent to the application of force by the accused person. An honest but mistaken belief in consent by an accused will also afford a defence to an assault charge. No one, however, can consent to being killed or seriously injured.

Consent may be express or implied, except in cases of Sexual Assault where consent must be express. The surrounding circumstances will be considered to determine whether there was an implied consent to the application of force. For example, implied consent would normally be found in circumstances where someone patted their niece on the shoulder. In sports, players consent to the bodily contact and risk of injury that falls within the customary norms and rules of the game.

Can you consent to a fight?

For adults, consent does is not a defence to assault charges stemming from a fist fight or brawl where serious hurt or non-trivial bodily harm occurs. The defence of consent would apply to children in the course of ordinary school yard scuffles.

Self Defence

You are justified in using reasonable force to defend yourself against an unlawful assault provided you did not provoke the assault and you did not intend to cause death or grievous bodily harm. Reasonable force will depend on the circumstances of the assault against you.

Should it be found that you did intend to cause grievous bodily harm, the force you used to defend yourself will be justified in circumstances where you reasonably apprehended that death or grievous bodily harm to yourself would otherwise result.

Defence of Property or Defence of Others

Reasonable force can be used to protect your property or to defend anyone under your protection from an assault. Reasonable force will depend on the surrounding circumstances.

The defence may be available even if the assailant is killed. Provocation consists of conduct intended to provoke an assault. The force used must be no more than necessary to enable him to defend himself.