Challenges for Police During Pandemic Resulting in Assault Charges Across Canada

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In this unpredictable and stressful environment that we are currently living in as we deal with COVID-19, our country’s first responders are facing unexpected challenges every day. 

Canada’s police officers are experiencing an increasing number of COVID-19 threats daily as they respond to calls from the public.  Across the country, charges of assault are being laid on individuals who are intentionally coughing or spitting on police officers.

Assault charges are considered a serious violation in Canada and are classified as a criminal act.  Charges of this nature will be tried in court, and if convicted the individual will be left with a criminal record. 

In Canada, a simple definition of assault is the intention to apply force to another individual in a direct or indirect manner, without that individual’s consent.  Only the threat of an assault is required for an assault charge to be laid, an actual injury does not have to occur.  It is essential that the individual being charged had both a direct intent to inflict harm and that there was no consent given by the individual being harmed.

Given the heightened concern of bodily fluids spreading the virus, the act of intentionally coughing or spitting on another individual with the intent to transmit a disease is certainly a factor the courts will look at, even if the victim of the crime does not become sick. 


On April 2, 2020, police attended a home in Lethbridge, Alberta following a report of domestic assault.  A 27-year-old man was found to be in breach of the conditions of his release order.  While he was being taken into custody he coughed directly into the officer’s face.  He told officers that he had been exposed to a person with COVID-19 and hoped that the officers would get infected.  As a result of this deliberate incident, the man was charged with assault on a peace officer.

A similar incident occurred three days later in Wetaskiwin, Alberta when a man allegedly intentionally coughed on a police officer when he was arrested for breaching his court-ordered conditions.  He told police he had the virus and coughed in the officer’s face when being led to the police car and in another officer’s face when being processed.

On April 6, 2020, in Coquitlam, British Columbia, a man was charged with assault after allegedly spitting on police officers following his arrest for break-and-enter.  Prior to spitting, he had answered yes when questioned as to whether he was sick.

Similarly, in Kelowna, B.C., a man is facing a charge of aggravated assault after he allegedly spit on a police officer while he was being arrested for breaking and entering an empty home. 

Assault charges are also being laid against Canadians who are deliberately coughing on individuals who are not first responders.  On April 5, 2020, a man claiming to have tested positive for COVID-19 was charged with assault after coughing on a bus driver and transit officers who were called in to break up the altercation.

Two New Brunswick men, who had recently travelled to the Dominican Republic, have also been charged with assault after allegedly coughing on neighbours in a rooming house.  The neighbours had complained that the two men were not properly isolating themselves after they returned from vacation.  The two men  reacted to these complaints by coughing on their neighbours.


An individual from Taber, Alberta has been charged with mischief after allegedly licking products in a store as part of a social-media prank.  According to police, a witness saw a group of four individuals enter the store and attempt to lick items with their tongue.  The witness reported the incident to store management.  The suspects were identified through a licence plate number and a 20-year-old was charged with mischief under $5,000.  The man was allegedly participating in the “COVID Challenge” on TikTok.  The store had to remove items from their shelves and sanitize the area as a result of this incident.

The criminal offence of mischief covers a broad range of conduct and typically applies in circumstances where a person obstructs, interrupts or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property. 

Chief Graham Abela of the Taber Police stated:

Taber police consider this type of activity a serious breach of good citizenship and conduct that is required during this time of crisis.  Reliable and clean food supply is one of our greatest needs at this time.  To waste cleaning supplies and food from our shelves during this pandemic is unacceptable.  We will investigate and where necessary lay charges to the fullest extent of the law to help curb this type of prank.

As the province of Ontario’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly evolving, we will continue to follow the developments and update any changes in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with an assault or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact our office online or at 905-404-1947.   Our business remains open and we are operating at full capacity.  The law firm of Affleck & Barrison LLP is committed to the health and safety of our community and is operating under the suggested social distancing guidelines recommended by the Canadian government and health professionals.

Our skilled criminal defence lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.