What is a domestic assault?

A domestic assault is as an assault that takes place between “intimate partners” who are either current or former spouses, common-law partners or dating partners.

Where an assault takes place between two people who share one of these relationships mentioned above, the mater is labeled “domestic” and prosecuted quite differently by Crown counsel than other types of assault charges.

According to the “Crown Policy Manual”, a document provided by the Attorney General, detailing how Crown prosecutors are to perform their duties, Crown Attorneys are instructed to “prosecute domestic violence offences as vigorously as other serious criminal matters”.

Although the Criminal Code doesn’t contain a distinct “domestic assault charge”, in many jurisdictions, domestic assault cases are separately identified and prosecuted by a special team of prosecutors who almost exclusively deal with these types of allegations.

Recent Criminal Code changes instruct judges and prosecutors to act more harshly towards people accused of intimate partner violence at every stage of a criminal proceeding including the bail stage and at sentencing.

For example, In the bail context, a justice is now required to consider whether someone is charged with an offence where actual, attempted, or threatened violence was used against an intimate partner.

At the sentencing stage, the court must now consider violence against an intimate partner, or the family member of the victim or offender, as an aggravating factor on sentencing. Judges may also now exceed the maximum sentence imposed on an offender for some intimate partner offences.

Internal police policies dictate that in almost all situations, the police are to charge a person alleged to have assaulted another in a domestic context, regardless of whether or not independent proof of the crime exists such as visible injuries or independent witnesses to the offence. A person’s word in the absence of ANY other evidence is enough to bring someone into the criminal justice system on an assault charge.

How Are People Charged With Domestic Assault Treated?

Domestic violence or domestic assault allegations require a particular set of skills to be used by the criminal lawyer because of the family dynamics and emotions that are involved in such cases. Unfortunately, these allegations can separate families and tear them apart. Often, people with no criminal record are held for bail hearings when facing domestic assault charges. Some people accused of domestic assault are released on bail from the police station. The police will determine how serious they believe the allegations to be and then determine whether to release the accused from the station or hold the accused for bail. Most allegations of domestic assault will result in release conditions that prevent the parties from contacting each other. This means that accused persons often must move out of the family home and land up having no contact with their spouse or partner and limited contact with their children.