Ottawa Criminal Lawyer: When are you Considered to be a Party to an Offence? – Clear explanations of the different types of parties to an offence

Accused of a crime in Ontario?  Here is something the Ottawa Criminal Defence Lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth think you should know.

The laws for defining parties to an offence in Canada are outlined in Sections 21, 22 and 23 of the Criminal Code of Canada. Your Ottawa Criminal Defence Lawyer would tell you that these sections apply to anyone who is involved in committing the offence along with someone else, who gives encouragement to someone else committing the offence, and who helps out after the offence has been committed.

These sections of the Code help the justice system to convict and sentence someone who may not be involved in the actual commission of the crime itself, but who may be associated with events leading up to it or later events that can be considered related to its commission,  such as covering the tracks of the defendant.

There are four categories for individuals who fall under these sections of the Code:

  1. Section 21 of the Criminal Code: Someone who Aids and Abets:This category is for someone who may not actually be committing the offence itself but is doing something, or purposely not doing something, in order to help the person committing the crime. Assisting someone to commit a crime in any way is a crime itself under this provision.Example:In the case of Dunlop and Sylvester v. The Queen, the Supreme Court found that mere presence at the scene of a crime while it is being committed is not enough to be considered an aiding or abetting party. Mere presence can make one a part to offence if they had prior knowledge of what was going to happen or if they attended to assist or encourage the action in any way.
  2. Section 21(2) of the Criminal Code:Common IntentThis section applies when you and another person come together with a common purpose to engage in unlawful behaviour and help each other in carrying out that purpose. This section can apply to situations where the commission of an offence was not the original intended purpose. If an offence is committed by any party involved while your original plan is being carried out, you could be considered a party to that offence. However, it must be something that you could have foreseen occurring.Example:In the case of R. v. Martineau Martineau was originally found to be a party to an offence because of his common intent. In this case, Martineau and his associate, Tremblay, intended to break and enter into the home of James and Ann McLean. They had the common unlawful purpose of committing a robbery. Tremblay ended up shooting and killing both James and Ann McLean. Martineau was charged and convicted of both murders, even though he did not actually participate in the shootings or intend for them to happen.

    On appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada found that Martineau could not be convicted of both murders because he did not foresee the deaths occurring. He honestly believed that he and Tremblay were only going to rob the McLeans’ home and honestly did not foresee the possibility of death as a consequence.

  3. Section 23 of the Criminal Code: Accessor After the FactAn accessory after the fact is someone who knows another party has committed a crime but assists them for the purpose of protecting them, or enabling them to escape. There is an exception to this provision. If you are someone’s spouse, meaning their husband or wife, you may protect them after they have committed a crime.Example:Allowing someone to stay at your house for protection when you know they have committed a crime, makes you an accessory after the fact.

    If you have been accused of being a party to an offence, contact the Criminal Defence Lawyers at Auger Hollingsworth for more information.