I’ve noticed that the coverage of the charges faced by Jian Ghomeshi has led to some very emotional and confused discussions. I’m regularly asked by friends and family to help explain what was happening from a legal perspective. With news of the crown attorney withdrawing the sexual assault charge against Jian Ghomeshi in return for a Peace Bond, I thought it may be helpful to use this article to explain how peace bonds work.
A peace bond is a recognizance signed by the accused requiring him or her to comply with certain terms for 12 months. Every peace bond will require the accused to “keep the peace and be of good behaviour”. Other terms will depend on the particular circumstances and may include: not to contact the complainant, not to be within such distance of the complainant, or not to consume drugs, or alcohol. If the accused fails to comply with the terms of a peace bond, they can be charged with a breach of recognizance and may face jail time.
The most common type of peace bond requires the complainant to have reasonable grounds to fear that the accused will hurt them, or their family. Procedurally, the prosecutor would provide allegations to the court to show the reasonable grounds, and the accused is given the opportunity to show cause. The accused is not required to admit any facts or guilt, they merely decide if they want to show why a peace bond is unwarranted. If the peace bond is the result of a deal to have the charges withdrawn, the accused will not want to show cause.
A peace bond is a valuable tool when charges involve assault or threats, particularly if there are no serious injuries. It creates a type punishment and accountability on the part of the accused without requiring them to admit guilt. It also provides protection to the complainant from the accused. A peace bond won’t always be appropriate, but when they are they are quite helpful.
Peace Bonds aren’t just a bargaining chip between a crown attorney and defence counsel to have charges withdrawn. Individuals can also seek a peace bond if they have reasonable grounds to fear that a person will hurt them. Sometimes crown attorneys prosecute private peace bond applications and sometimes individuals hire lawyers to prosecute them.
What was surprising about the Ghomeshi case wasn’t that it was resolved by a peace bond, but that he offered an apology in open court. This is very uncommon for peace bonds. They are generally used to resolve a complaint without the accused admitting any wrongdoing.
Overall, Peace bonds are important legal tools to resolve charges and protect individuals who fear for their safety.
Scott Buchanan is an associate at the law firm of Cobb & Jones LLP. For more articles, visit the Library Page at www.cobbjones.ca