AuthorKent Roach
Criminal law is enacted and applied in Canada in an increasingly com-
plex constitutional framework that is examined in Chapter 2. The basic
elements of criminal and regulatory oences are the prohibited act and
the required fault element, which are examined in Chapters 3 and 5,
respectively. Chapter 4 examines how criminal oences are expanded
by various provisions prohibiting attempted and unfulf‌illed crimes and
participation as an accomplice in crimes. Special provisions governing
regulatory oences and corporate crime are examined in Chapter 6. Vari-
ous defences to crimes are examined in subsequent chapters, including
intoxication (Chapter 7), mental disorder and automatism (Chapter 8),
and self-defence, necessity, and duress (Chapter 9). Chapter10 examines
the application of general principles of criminal liability in the context
of some selected specif‌ic oences, including the various forms of homi-
cide, sexual, property, and terrorism oences. Chapter10 also examines
the provocation defence, which only applies to reduce murder to man-
slaughter. Punishment depends on the exercise of sentencing discretion,
which is examined in Chapter 11. A f‌inal chapter examines models of
the criminal justice system and trends in the criminal law.
A 2019 victimization study suggests t hat about 19 percent of all Can-
adians were victi ms of crime in the last year, down from 25 percent in
2004. In 2019, this a mounted to 8.3 million crimina l incidents, includ-
ing various forms of theft (49 percent), assault (17 percent), sexual
assault (11 percent), break and enter (8 percent), vehicle theft (4 per-
cent), and robbery (3 percent). The perpetrator of most violent crime is
often someone known to the victim, and t he site of most violence is the
home. There were higher rates of victimization for Indigenous people,
disabled girls and women, and the un housed.
In only 22 percent of cases in the 2019 survey did victim s report the
crime to the police. The reasons for not reporting va ry, but often relate
to a perception that the incident was too minor to justify reporting or
it being a personal matter. Other reas ons included concerns that the
oender would not be adequately punished or that the police would
not be eective, and that the victim did not want to be involved with
the courts. In sexual assault cases, only 6 percent of incidents were
reported to the police. In general, women only reported 18 percent of
violent victimiz ation to the police compared to 36 percent of males who
exper ienced violent v ictimiz ation.
In 2019, there were just over 2.1 million crimes reported to the
police. This represented a 7 percent increas e over 2018, but a 9 percent
decrease in crime reported per capita since 2009. There were 678 homi-
cides, 30,900 sexual as saults, and 265,500 assaults reported to the police.
Although they receive the most attention in the press and i n appeal court
cases, homicides make up only 0.1 percent of violent crime s reported to
the police. The majority of crimes reported to t he police (78 percent) are
non-violent. They include 85,700 incidents related to impaired driving,
of which 85 percent involved alcohol and 8 percent involved other drugs,
and 161,300 incidents of breaking and entering.
The majority of crimes reported to the police do not result in char-
ges. The majority of cases in which ch arges are laid are resolved without
a trial and end in a f‌i nding of guilt. In a process commonly know n as
plea bargaining, the prosecutor may withdraw some charges or take
certain positions on sentence if the accused agrees to plead gui lty. The
accused may receive a more lenient sentence because they h ave pled
guilty, with judges only departing from joint submissions by prosecu-
tors and the defence about an appropriate sentence if the recommended
sentence will bring t he administration of justice into disrepute. The
prosecutor may also simply withd raw charges laid by the police if there
is no reasonable prospect of conviction.
In 2019/20, there were 311,940 cases completed in adult court. These
cases disposed of 1.1 million charges, which ref‌lects the fact that most
accused face three or more charges from the many crimin al oences
that Parliament has en acted and continues to enact. There was a plea or

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