Mischief

What is Public Mischief?

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

There are many forms of “mischief” found within the Criminal Code of Canada (“CCC”) and we’ve previously blogged about some interesting situations in which such charges may arise.

Public mischief is one such charge. It involves a deliberate intention to provide false information to a peace offer, which leads to a formal investigation. This information can impede investigations, waste valuable resources, and result in individuals being wrongly accused for crimes they did not commit.

Public mischief is considered a very serious offence. Often prosecutors (i.e. the Crown) will seek a jail sentence and probation for even a first-time offender with no prior record.

PUBLIC MISCHIEF UNDER THE CRIMINAL CODE OF CANADA

Section 140 of the CCC reads as follows: 

140 (1) Every one commits public mischief who, with intent to mislead, causes a peace officer to enter on or continue an investigation by

(a)   making a false statement that accuses some other person of having committed an offence;

(b)   doing anything intended to cause some other person to be suspected of having committed an offence that the other person has not committed, or to divert suspicion from himself;

(c)  reporting that an offence has been committed when it has not been committed; or

(d)  reporting or in any other way making it known or causing it to be made known that he or some other person has died when he or that other person has not died.

WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS THAT MUST BE PROVEN TO ESTABLISH PUBLIC MISCHIEF? 

Before someone can be convicted of the offence of public mischief, it must be shown that:

  • They reported an offence;
  • Their actions or words were false;
  • They intended to mislead; and,
  • Their actions or words caused a peace officer to start or continue an investigation.

EXAMPLES OF SITUATIONS RESULTING IN PUBLIC MISCHIEF

There are several situations that commonly result in public mischief charges.

False 911 Calls

Most public mischief charges arise from false or misleading 911 calls requiring police, fire and/or ambulance assistance and those giving false statements to the police in an attempt to criminalize a third party. In these circumstances, the police and other emergency responders must proceed with an investigation, resulting in an enormous waste of public resources. The time and resources used to investigate these types of situations could otherwise have been used to assist those in actual need.

False Accusations of Assault

False allegations also commonly arise at a nightclubs/bars and are alcohol related. These false allegations take the form of assault, threats or stolen property.

Domestic Abuse

Another common circumstance where false allegations arise involves partner/spouse reports in the matter of domestic disputes.

Recent Examples in the News

A recent example of a public mischief charge comes from Saskatchewan where a woman and her husband tried to fake the husband’s death. The couple believed that if the police thought that the husband was dead, he would avoid prosecution of outstanding sex charges. A massive search took place involving a plane and underwater divers. In March 2017, Michelle Ross was sentenced and ordered to pay restitution after pleading guilty to public mischief in a fake missing persons case last year. She was handed a six month conditional sentence, which includes four months of 24-hour curfew and she was ordered to pay $10,000.00 to the Search and Rescue Association of Volunteers for the cost of the search. The husband also pleaded guilty to public mischief and obstructing a peace officer and was sentenced to three months in jail.

In July 2017, Ottawa police charged a 20-year-old man with one count of public mischief after he filed a false robbery report. The man was working as a security guard and reported having been robbed by a group of males, one of whom was reported to be carrying a handgun. The investigation determined that no robbery occurred.

CONSEQUENCES FOR PUBLIC MISCHIEF CHARGES

The Crown will almost always prosecute an offence of public mischief. Potential punishments are found in Section 140(2) of the CCC which reads:

140(2)           Every one who commits public mischief

(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years; or

(b)  is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

If the Crown chooses to proceed by summary conviction, the maximum punishment is 6 months in a provincial jail and/or a $5,000.00 fine. If the Crown chooses to proceed by indictable conviction, the maximum punishment is five years imprisonment.

Additional fines and probation may also be imposed. Restitution is also a possibility to compensate taxpayers. These amounts can range from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you are facing a public mischief charge or have any questions regarding your legal rights, contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We have a 24-hour phone service for your convenience.

Women Avoid Criminal Record, but Ordered to Pay Airline $7,500 after Fighter Jets Scrambled Following Threat to Aircraft

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Two Toronto women who previously pleaded guilty to mischief and smoking on an aircraft, following a 2014 incident which resulted in two CF-18 fighter jets escorting a Cuba-bound aircraft back to Pearson Airport, were sentenced today. The women avoided a major criminal charge of endangering the safety of an aircraft but must pay a fine of $500, as well as restitution of $7,500 to Sunwing, the operator of the flight in question.

Endangering the Safety of an Aircraft and Other Criminal Charges

According to Justice Patrice Band’s written decision, the two women drank a significant amount of duty-free alcohol while on the flight, and then lit a cigarette in the airplane washroom, which triggered the aircraft’s on-board smoke detector. When the flight crew ordered the women back to their seats, they continued to be disruptive. A passenger informed the flight crew that he overheard one of the women utter a bomb threat, which the other woman responded to affirmatively.

While the flight’s Captain did not think the threat was credible, he decided to turn the plane around and return to Pearson airport as he was concerned that the women’s behaviour would escalate.

Canada’s NORAD sector in Winnipeg was alerted to the problems aboard the aircraft and scrambled two CF-18 fighter jets from the Royal Canadian Air Force base in Bagotville, Quebec. NORAD spokesperson, U.S Army Capt. Ruth Castro stated:

Just out of an abundance of caution, the NORAD jets were launched and monitored the situation from the air.

The women were charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft, mischief over $5,000, mischief endangering life, and uttering threats (under the Criminal Code), as well as smoking on an aircraft (under the Canadian Aviation Regulations).

Sunwing stated that the incident cost them $42,500.

Sentencing

Justice Band ordered the women to pay a fine of $500, as well as $7,500 in restitution to Sunwing. The Judge stated that a permanent criminal record would be “overkill”.

Both women were granted conditional discharges, and will be on probation for 12 months. Both must keep the peace, be on good behaviour, and regularly be in touch with their probation officer. They will also need to complete counselling for alcohol abuse, as well as 100 hours of community service (in addition to the 100 hours already completed by both)

During sentencing, Justice Band noted that he had taken into account the fact that no one was “directly endangered” as a result of the women’s behaviour, however, in a post 9/11 world, it was understandable that other passengers would have been scared.

Ultimately, Justice Band hopes that the sentence will “deter anyone else from behaving the same way on a flight”.

In addition to the fines, probation, and conditions ordered by Justice Band, both women have been placed on Sunwing’s no-fly list, which could result in travel complications. The publicity of this incident and the aftermath could also impact their employability in their chosen field of nursing.

Other Serious Consequences that Could Have Resulted from the Behaviour

The potential consequences for these two women could have been much worst than what the final outcome actually is.

The most serious of the charges the women faced, endangering the safety of an aircraft, is an indictable offence under the Criminal Code and carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

One of the women is a German citizen who was completing her nursing education in Canada, and was hoping to eventually become a permanent resident. Had the sentencing resulted in criminal charges, there would have been a risk that she would have been deported.

At Affleck & Barrison our firm and its predecessors have been protecting client rights since 1992. Our skilled lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s legal interests.  We are available 24 hours a day, and offer a variety of payment options, including Legal Aid. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help. Call us at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation.

Blue Jays Beer Thrower Facing Criminal Charges

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last week’s wild card game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles was overshadowed by a can of beer tossed form the stands, narrowly missing Oriole’s outfielder Hyun Soo Kim.

The incident immediately caused a social media uproar across Canada and in the U.S, with many calling for the identification of the person responsible. Toronto Mayor John Tory called the perpetrator a “loon-ball’ and appealed to fans sitting nearby to identify him. The Toronto Sun offered a $1000 reward to anyone who could turn the beer-thrower in. Well-known author Stephen King pondered “Hey, whatever happened to polite Canadians” via Twitter.

Toronto Police Service quickly released a photo of the man they believed threw the can. Within 24 hours, the man in the picture was identified as Ken Pagan, a 41-year old Hamilton resident, and employee at Postmedia. Pagan subsequently turned himself into police at 52 division. He is facing one count of mischief, and has a court date set for November 24th. In the meantime, he has been released with conditions- including a ban on attending games at the Rogers Centre, and a ban on consuming alcohol.

Mischief Charges

Depending on the outcome of his court appearance, Pagan could be facing serious consequences. The range of punishments for a mischief conviction includes fines, probation, and jail time. The maximum jail sentence depends on whether the charges are for mischief under $5000, or mischief over $5000. A conviction can also result in a criminal record, which may affect future employment, travel, and/or immigration. Even where there is an acquittal or the charges are withdrawn or stayed, a record of the mischief charge may still be found on a CPIC.

Other Consequences 

A Blue Jays spokesperson has confirmed that Pagan is “not welcome back at Rogers Centre”. It is unclear whether the ban will be permanent or temporary. This is not an exceptional consequence- last year a Toronto sports fan was banned from all Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment events for at least 12 months after being caught on live television shouting obscenities to a female reporter.

If you are facing mischief charges, contact our office online or at 905-404-1947 to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled Oshawa lawyers.