section 266


A review of section 266 of the Criminal Code of Canada which sets out the offence of assault simpliciter


266 Every one who commits an assault is guilty of (a) an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or (b) an offence punishable on summary conviction.


Section 266 sets out the offence of assault. This is the lowest form of basic assault often referred to as "assault simpliciter". Other variants of assault are found at sections 267(a), 267(b) and 268, which set out the offences of assault with a weapon, causing bodily harm, and aggravated assault respectively. The term "assault" is defined earlier in the Code at section 265. This is one of the most commonly charged offences, and is interpreted broadly. Simply put, an assault is any unwanted application of force (or even threat thereof) without consent. This can include strikes, pushes, punches or kicks. However, it also includes grabbing, holding, spitting or more minor forms of contact such as grabbing an item from another person's hand (indirect assault).


Section 266 of the Criminal Code of Canada outlines the offence of assault and the legal consequences of committing such an offence. The provision stipulates that anyone who assaults another person can face two types of charges, either as an indictable offence or as an offence punishable on summary conviction. Assault is defined by the Criminal Code as the intentional application of force to another person without their consent, or the threat of the use of force that causes the other person to fear for their safety. The definition covers a broad range of behaviour, including physical violence, verbal harassment, and intimidation. It is an offence that relates to the intentional harm or threat of harm that one person causes to another. The punishment for an indictable offence is more severe than that for an offence punishable on summary conviction. The maximum jail term for an indictable offence of assault is five years, while a summary conviction can result in a jail term of up to six months. The court has the discretion to decide on the punishment, taking into account a range of factors such as the severity and impact of the assault, the offender's criminal history, and any mitigating circumstances. The provision is crucial in providing a legal framework for addressing the problem of assault in Canada. It sets clear boundaries for acceptable behaviour and establishes consequences for those who cross those boundaries. The law ensures that the state can intervene when someone is victimized, and it also acts as a deterrent for would-be assailants. The provision further protects individuals from abusive behaviour in both the private and public spheres. The section plays a critical role in ensuring the safety of vulnerable individuals, including women, children, and people with disabilities. It takes into account the power dynamics that exist in personal relationships and acknowledges the importance of informed consent in all interactions. It is a way to combat domestic violence, which is often underreported, and the law encourages victims to come forward and report assaults. The provision also applies to a range of situations, including workplaces, schools, and public spaces, giving victims legal recourse if they are assaulted in any of these settings. The law ensures that no one is above the law and that everyone is held accountable for their actions. By criminalizing assault, the section sends a message to the public that violence of any kind is unacceptable, and it helps to promote a safer and more civil society. In conclusion, section 266 of the Criminal Code of Canada is a crucial legal tool in addressing the issue of assault in Canada. It plays a vital role in promoting respect, tolerance, and the rule of law and helps create a more peaceful society for all. The law is an essential component of Canadian democracy and ensures that everyone is equal before the law.


On account of the sheer volume of assault charges, both domestic and non-domestic, that flow through the criminal justice system, there has been a lot of caselaw generated over the years. Defences include self-defence, defence of property, defence of another person. In some instances the voluntariness of the physical application of force may be challenged. Additionally, the common law allows for the defence of mutual fight, so long as no bodily harm resulted. A higher threshold of assault is available for sporting activities, depending on the nature of the sport and its typical rules. Reference should be had to the current provisions related to self defence as found in sections 27 and 34 of the Code.



If I am convicted of assault will I have a criminal record?


The punishment for assault simpliciter ranges from an absolute discharge to penitentiary time. Typically, a first time offender with a low level assault will be given the opportunity to enroll in an anger management court, upon completion of which, the Court would be in the position to impose a discharge, thus sparing the accused a criminal conviction. However, each case is unique and adjudicated on its own merits. Some jurisdictions as for "short sharp" jail sentences even for first time offenders.


R. v. Chase, [1987] 2 SCR 293, 1987 CanLII 23 (SCC)


Criminal lawyer Paul Lewandowski analyses the offence of assault simpliciter as defined by section 266 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
An analysis of section 267(b) by Ottawa criminal defence lawyer Paul Lewandowski. The section sets out the offence of assault causing bodily harm.
A link to defence lawyer Paul Lewandowski's website
Links to CTV Legal Analyst Paul Lewandowski's clips about recent criminal cases in the news.
Articles about recent criminal cases in the news.
Ines Gavran is a lawyer who practices criminal defence law in Newmarket, Ontario.