What is an Accessory After the Fact in Ontario, Canada?

When most people think of criminal law, they think of offences like robbery, assault, or murder. However, there are a variety of other criminal offences that can be charged under the Criminal Code of Canada. One such offence is accessory after the fact.

But what is an accessory after the fact? And how does it differ from other types of criminal offences? This write-up explores these questions and provides examples of when you might be charged with this offence.

How Does it Differ from Other Criminal Charges?

In Ontario, Canada, an accessory after the fact is a person who helps or shields another person who has committed a crime. The accessory after the fact is often someone who was not involved in the initial crime but became involved afterwards. For example, if someone robs a bank and then asks their friend to help them hide the stolen money, the friend would be considered an accessory after the fact.

Prosecution

For the court to find you guilty of this offence, the Crown must prove that you:

  • Knew that the other person had committed a crime.
  • Assisted that person to help them escape punishment.

Sentencing for Accessory After The Fact

In Ontario, Canada, the punishment for an accessory after the fact charge depends on the severity of the underlying offence. If the underlying offence is punishable by life in prison, then the maximum sentence for an accessory after the fact is 14 years in prison. However, if the underlying offence is punishable by a less severe sentence, the maximum sentence for an accessory after the fact is five years in prison.

Defences To Accessory After The Fact Charges

There are major defences to accessory after the fact, including lack of knowledge, duress, and necessity.

Lack of Knowledge

lack of knowledge is a defence that can be used if the accused can prove that they did not know that the person they were helping had committed a crime.

You Acted Under Duress

Duress is a defence that can prove that you only helped the person who committed the crime (principal defendant) because you were threatened with violence, death, or harm to your loved ones.

You Acted out of Necessity

Necessity is a defence that can prove that you only helped the principal offender because there was no other way to prevent greater harm. Also, you could argue that you assisted the principal offender for a lawful purpose, or you were motivated by compassion or a sense of duty.

Note that you bear the burden of proof to show one of these defences, and if you cannot do so, the court finds you guilty of accessory after the fact.

Related Crimes to Accessory After the Fact Offence

An accessory after the fact can be charged with several or in the place of different offences. These include:

Aiding And Abetting

Aiding and abetting is a criminal offence in Canada. According to the Criminal Code, aiding and abetting happens when someone helps or makes another person to violate the law. If arrested, you are subject to punishment as if you had committed that crime yourself. For the court to find you guilty of aiding and abetting, the crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew that a crime was being or about to be committed.

For example, if you drive a getaway car for a bank robber, you could be charged with aiding and abetting even though you did not go into the bank with them. If you are charged with aiding and abetting, you serve a similar sentence to the person who committed the crime. The punishment will depend on the gravity of the crime that was committed.

If you are found guilty of aiding and abetting first-degree murder, you will be sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years. If you are charged with aiding and abetting any other indictable offence, you can be sentenced to 14 years or less in prison. If you are charged with an offence punishable by summary conviction, you can be fined up to $2,000 or sentenced to 6 months in jail.

Obstruction of Justice

Obstruction of justice is a criminal offence in Canada. According to the Canada Criminal Code, obstruction of justice occurs when someone obstructs, perverts or defeats the administration of justice in a criminal proceeding. This can include destroying evidence, intimidating witnesses, or interfering with police officers.

The maximum penalty for obstruction of justice is ten years in prison. However, the sentence will depend on the severity of the offence and the circumstances of the case. Obstruction of justice is a serious crime that can significantly impact the outcome of a criminal proceeding. If you are charged with obstruction of justice, it is important to contact criminal lawyers in Toronto as soon as possible.

Contact a criminal lawyer if you face charges for being an accessory after the fact. A criminal lawyer can review your case and determine what defences may be available to you. Depending on the circumstances of your case, it may be possible to have the charges against you reduced or even dismissed.

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