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DEFENCES - Self-defence

Thursday, May 10, 2018 @ 8:46 AM  

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Appeal by the accused, Primmer, from a conviction for assault causing bodily harm. The accused was an inmate at a correctional facility. He was trusted by guards and other inmates within his unit as an individual who would maintain order. The complainant was another inmate with a reputation for trouble. Upon transfer to the accused’s unit, the complainant challenged the accused’s authority through his words and actions. The accused responded by punching the complainant in the head 25 to 30 times. The incident was captured on video. The accused advanced a defence of self-defence. The trial judge reviewed the evidence and concluded that the Crown disproved the defence beyond a reasonable doubt. The accused appealed on the basis the trial judge failed to attribute adequate weight to evidence regarding the unwritten code of conduct governing inmate behaviour. The accused submitted that the code required him to use force to respond to the complainant’s challenge, failing which he was vulnerable to a violent attack.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The trial judge conducted a careful review of the accused’s evidence relating to the prison context and the alleged motivation for the attack. The context of an inmate’s code did not supplant the legal definition of self-defence. The evidence supported the trial judge’s finding that there was not an imminent threat of force from the complainant, and that the accused acted out of a desire to maintain his status within the unit rather than in self-defence. The trial judge’s conclusion did not result from an error in the application of the principles governing the burden of proof.

R. v. Primmer, [2018] O.J. No. 1790, Ontario Court of Appeal, R.J. Sharpe, G.I. Pardu and J.M. Fairburn JJ.A., March 27, 2018. Digest No. TLD-May72018008