Death threats

The offence of uttering threats to cause death or inflict bodily injuries is covered by Section 264.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada. This means to express to another person a threat to kill someone or cause them bodily injuries, destroy their property or kill/injure an animal that is their property

It is not essential that the threat be expressed directly to the victim for the crime to be done. Also, it is not necessary that the defendant actually had the intention to carry out the threats for him or her to be found guilty.
 
In R. v. O’Brien, the Supreme Court of Canada acquitted Mr. O’Brien. He had told his girlfriend that he would kill her if she went through with an abortion. The question of whether the intention of the perpetrator who has uttered threats, in absence of any explanation by the accused, has somewhat been clarified. The intent of the accused should “usually be determined by the words used, the context in which they were spoken, and the person to whom they were directed.”

In R. v. O’Brien, the victim didn’t believe the perpetrator’s words but the Crown felt that the shear utterance of a threat in an intercepted text was enough, whether or not the victim believed it or the perpetrator intended it. In essence the Crown forwarded the claim that any utterance of a threat was considered a violation of s. 264 of the Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46; uttering a threat to cause death or bodily harm to another person. This would broaden the scope of threats to, for example, someone who posted a joke online that was clearly understood by its receiver to be one. The Court dismissed the Crown’s appeal and clarified that the “context” was pivotal in deciding whether the threat violated s. 264.1(1)(a). In essence, the test is not objective but subjective and the trial judge must “consider the words…in the context of the evidence of [the person to whom they were directed]”.

The criminal lawyer defending a client charged with uttering threats has to ask himself or herself certain questions: Does the client’s version contradict the plaintiff’s version? Is there any other proof of the threat, apart from the plaintiff’s testimony? Did the words uttered actually make up a threat under the Criminal Code? There are also other relevant questions.

The maximum sentence for uttering threats to kill or cause bodily injury is 18 months emprisonment under summary procedures (Section 264.1 (2) b) Criminal Code) and 5 years for a criminal offence (Section 264.1 (2) a) Criminal Code). An absolute discharge is a possible sentence if certain conditions are present.

Please consult other articles of this site for examples of threat cases defended by a criminal lawyer of our firm.


Any person charged with threats should consult a criminal lawyer as soon as possible.