The Criminal Code defines simple assault as the intentional application of force to another person without their consent. What many are surprised to learn is that an attempt or threat, by means of a gesture, to apply force to another person also constitutes an assault even if no force is actually used and the victim is not even touched.

This basic definition applies to all forms of assault, such as ones causing different degrees of bodily harm, sexual assault and assault with a weapon. In addition, any form of assault accompanied by the intention to steal is defined as one of the ways of committing the offence of robbery.

Assault causing bodily harm or while carrying a weapon is the next level of assault. Bodily harm is defined in the case law as any harm which is more than transient or trifling. This is a rather low threshold which doesn’t require breaking of the skin or bleeding. All of these types of assault can be prosecuted either by summary conviction or by indictment, at the election of the Crown.

Aggravated assault is committed when the victim is wounded, maimed or disfigured, or has their life endangered. This offence is punishable only by indictment and carries a maximum sentence of fourteen years’ imprisonment.

It is worth noting that, contrary to popular belief, provocation is not a defence to a charge of assault. In fact, in defending assault cases it is important for the client not to exaggerate provocative behaviour on the part of the complainant since such allegations will only make it seem more likely the accused person lost their temper and committed the assault.