section 810.1(1)

INTRODUCTION AND BRIEF DESCRIPTION

This section allows a person to lay information before a judge if they fear that someone will commit a sexual offence against a minor.

SECTION WORDING

810.1(1) Any person who fears on reasonable grounds that another person will commit an offence under section 151 or 152, subsection 153(1), section 155 or 159, subsection 160(2) or (3), section 163.1, 170, 171, 171.1, 172.1 or 172.2, subsection 173(2) or 212(1), (2), (2.1) or (4) or section 271, 272, 273, 280 or 281, in respect of one or more persons who are under the age of 16 years, may lay an information before a provincial court judge, whether or not the person or persons in respect of whom it is feared that the offence will be committed are named.

EXPLANATION

Section 810.1(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada confers the power to lay an information, or charge, against an individual who is believed to be a risk to public safety. Specifically, the section allows any person who has reasonable grounds to believe that someone else may commit an offence under specific sections of the Criminal Code (including sexual assault, child exploitation, incest, and human trafficking, among others) against one or more individuals aged under 16 years to bring a case before a provincial court judge. The section is often referred to as a "peace bond" because it is designed to prevent harm before it occurs. Before a provincial court judge, the person bringing the information must show that they have reasonable grounds to fear that the accused person will commit the anticipated offence(s). The judge will then determine whether the accused needs to be bound to keep the peace or have any additional restrictions placed on their behaviour, such as not contacting certain individuals or leaving a specific geographic area. Breaching the conditions of the peace bond can lead to criminal charges and penalties. This section is crucial in protecting vulnerable members of society, particularly children, from potential harm. It allows individuals who may be at risk of being targeted by sexual predators, traffickers, or other criminal offenders to take proactive steps to protect themselves and their loved ones. At the same time, it ensures that individuals are not punished for hypothetical harm and that legal proceedings do not become unduly burdensome for everyone involved. Overall, the section's primary objective is to prevent criminal offences from occurring before they happen.

COMMENTARY

Section 810.1(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada serves to protect vulnerable persons, specifically those under the age of 16, from potential harm. It allows any person who fears, on reasonable grounds, that another person will commit an offence, as outlined in the section, to lay an information before a provincial court judge. The provision is broad in scope and covers a range of offences, including sexual assault, child pornography, and sexual exploitation. The purpose of Section 810.1(1) is to prevent harm before it occurs. It recognizes that individuals who may commit offences against children often exhibit warning signs and patterns of behaviour that can be identified. This provision allows concerned individuals to bring these potential issues to the attention of the court system before an offence is committed. In practice, Section 810.1(1) is often used in cases of suspected child sexual abuse. Concerned family members or friends of a child may become aware of a potential abuser in the child's life and fear that the individual may harm the child. Alternatively, individuals who work with children, such as teachers or social workers, may become concerned about a child's safety and use the provision to take action. Once an information has been laid before a provincial court judge, the judge can issue a recognizance, or legal agreement, that places restrictions on the individual who is perceived as a risk. For example, the individual may be required to stay away from the child in question or to refrain from coming within a certain distance of places where the child is likely to be found. The recognizance can also include conditions that require the individual to seek treatment or counselling for their behaviour. One of the key benefits of Section 810.1(1) is that it operates on a preventative basis, meaning that it can stop potential harm before it is inflicted. Rather than waiting for an offence to occur and then pursuing a criminal conviction, the provision allows for early intervention, potentially preventing an offence from happening at all. This can also lead to greater protection for those who are vulnerable, including more effective support for victims and increased opportunities for healing. However, there are also potential concerns with the use of Section 810.1(1). The provision relies on individuals to identify warning signs and patterns of behaviour, which may not always be accurate or reliable indicators of potential harm. There is also a risk of false accusations, where an individual is wrongly identified as a risk and subjected to restrictions and limitations unnecessarily. The provision may also have a chilling effect on relationships and community cohesiveness, where individuals are hesitant to report concerns for fear of overreacting or being seen as tabloid. Overall, Section 810.1(1) serves an important role in protecting vulnerable individuals, particularly children, from potential harm. However, it is important that the provision is used thoughtfully and with caution, ensuring that the rights of both the potentially at-risk individual and the potential victim are respected. Providing appropriate support and resources for those who are identified as at-risk, as well as for concerned individuals, can help to mitigate some of the limitations and concerns associated with the provision.

STRATEGY

Section 810.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada provides a legal mechanism for individuals who fear that someone will commit a sexual offence against individuals under the age of 16. It allows individuals to bring their concerns before a provincial court judge, who may issue a peace bond to prevent the potential offender from committing an offence. While the section is a valuable tool for protecting vulnerable individuals from harm, there are several strategic considerations to keep in mind when dealing with this provision. Firstly, individuals should carefully assess whether they have reasonable grounds to believe that an offence will be committed. The onus is on the person requesting the peace bond to provide evidence of their fear, and failing to do so may result in the court dismissing the application. It is important to remember that fears should be based on objective evidence and not just speculation or hearsay. Secondly, individuals should consider whether reporting to the police would be a more effective option. Police have more resources at their disposal to investigate and gather evidence, whereas the process under section 810.1 relies heavily on the evidence presented by the individual. If there is evidence of past harmful behaviour, or ongoing concerns that suggest a high likelihood of an offence being committed, then reporting to the police may be the more effective option. Thirdly, individuals should consider the potential repercussions of bringing a peace bond application. It may not be appropriate in situations where it could result in escalating tension or violence, or where it could harm relationships with the individual in question. In some cases, it may be necessary to weigh the potential risks and benefits of bringing the application with the assistance of a legal professional. Finally, it is important to acknowledge that the peace bond process can be emotionally taxing and traumatic for individuals. It requires individuals to confront their fears and may result in further contact with the potential offender. The process can be overwhelming and it is essential for individuals to have access to support systems, including counselling and legal assistance. In terms of strategies that could be employed, individuals should consider seeking legal advice from a family or criminal lawyer who has experience with section 810.1 applications. Lawyers can provide invaluable guidance on the preparation of evidence and appearing before a judge, as well as identifying alternative options that may be more effective in some cases. It may also be helpful for individuals to work with a victim support group, such as Kids Help Phone or a local sexual assault centre. These organizations can provide emotional support and connecting individuals with additional resources and assistance. In conclusion, section 810.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada provides a valuable tool for protecting vulnerable individuals from harm. However, it is important to approach the process with caution and to carefully consider the potential risks and benefits before proceeding. By consulting with legal and victim support professionals, individuals can receive the guidance they need to make informed decisions and protect themselves and those around them from harm.