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Restraining Orders, Peace Bonds & Terms of Release

 

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General Information on "No Contact Orders"


Q. WHY WOULD I GET A RESTRAINING ORDER, PEACE BOND OR TERMS OF RELEASE?

A. If you feel threatened by a partner or ex-partner and/or are being stalked.


Q. WHAT ARE THEY?

A. Restraining Orders, Peace Bonds and Terms of Release are issued when a court believes one person may cause injury to another person and/or to members of her family, or when the court sees that you have "reasonable fear" of this other person. They are sometimes called "no contact orders".

These legal orders restrict the behaviour of the person who is threatening or stalking you. The court may order that this person:

  • stay away from you and/or your family members

  • not communicate with you and/or your family members in any way at all

  • not possess firearms, ammunition, etc.


Q. HOW DO I GET A ONE?

A. A Judge or Justice of the Peace needs certain information before s/he can grant you one of these court orders:

  • s/he must believe on a balance of probabilities that your fear is reasonable: this means a similar person in your position would be afraid

  • you cannot make emotional pleas without evidence; therefore, you should:

    • document every time the person stalked you or threatened you
    • keep any evidence of abuse such as hospital records, photographs, etc.
    • in the case of a partner/ex-partner, if applicable, evidence of his mistreatment of your children
    • for peace bonds only, document every time the person damaged your property or threatened to; take photographs, if possible.


RESTRAINING ORDERS

Q. TELL ME MORE ABOUT RESTRAINING ORDERS.

A. A restraining order...

  • is set out in Family Court; judge only (no jury)

  • only applies to partners and ex-partners

  • is not applicable for threats to or actual damage of property

  • length varies: usually lasts for several months; however, could also be for only a few days or could be a permanent order

    NOTE: The new Domestic Violence Protection Act, when it takes effect, will replace restraining orders.


Q. HOW DO I GET A RESTRAINING ORDER?

A. Usually applications for restraining orders are made as part of a larger court proceeding under the Family Law Act (FLA), but you can apply for just a restraining order. The process can take many months. It will require a formal submission, evidence and a hearing at which both sides can make their claims.

A Judge needs certain information before s/he can grant you a restraining order:

  • s/he must believe on a balance of probabilities that your fear is reasonable: this means a similar person in your position would be afraid

  • you cannot make emotional pleas without evidence; therefore, you should:

    • document every time the person stalked you or threatened you
    • keep any evidence of abuse such as hospital records, photographs, etc.
    • in the case of a partner/ex-partner, if applicable, evidence of his mistreatment of your children


Q. WHAT IF I FEAR FOR MY IMMEDIATE SAFETY?

A. If you fear for your immediate safety, you can ask the court for an ex parte Restraining Order. This may be required if your ex-partner is getting out of jail, or there is some other immediate reason that causes you to fear for your safety. In such a case, your ex-partner is not notified of the application, and the judge can issue the order immediately upon being convinced of your evidence. This type of order is usually only in effect from 24 hours to one week, to allow you to be safe while your ex-partner is notified and given the opportunity to tell his side of the story.


Q. HOW DO I CHANGE THE TERMS OF MY RESTRAINING ORDERS?

You will have to bring a motion to change the existing order. You may be able to agree to a new arrangement through mediation if you and your partner/ex-partner can agree on the change. It is important to be sure you want the changes and that you are not being threatened or coerced by your partner/ex-partner.


Q. WHAT HAPPENS IF A RESTRAINING ORDER IS BREACHED?

A. Go to a safe place. Have a copy of the order with you. Call the police; they can charge the person breaching the order with a criminal offence and he may serve jail time

Be Aware: Often the police have not been helpful in enforcing these orders; they may refuse to press charges or minimize complaints. If the officer responding to your call does not provide an effective remedy, you should talk to the supervisor. You should also talk to the Victim-Witness Assistance Program staff about what should happen next time the order is broken.


PEACE BONDS

Q. TELL ME MORE ABOUT PEACE BONDS.

A. A peace bond...

  • takes place in front of a Justice of the Peace (JP)

  • considers threats to or acts that damage your property, as well as personal threats and acts of violence to your person or family members

  • also described as "entering a recognizance" or called an "810"

  • can last up to 12 months

  • if your abuser or stalker refuses to sign this document, he will be jailed for up to 12 months

  • a peace bond is not a criminal charge, but breaching one is an offence


Q. HOW DO I GET ONE?

A. The police do not need to be involved. Make an appointment with a Justice of the Peace (JP) at the provincial court to explain why you are seeking a Peace Bond. If the JP agrees with your concern, s/he will issue a summons requiring the other person to appear in court on a specific date.

At this appearance:

  • you will give evidence under oath describing why you are in need of the Peace Bond. You cannot make emotional pleas without evidence; therefore, you should:

    • document every time the person stalked you or threatened you

    • keep any evidence of abuse such as hospital records, photographs, etc.

    • in the case of a partner/ex-partner, if applicable, evidence of his mistreatment of your children

    • document every time the person damaged your property or threatened to; take photographs, if possible

  • the other person will have the opportunity to rebut your argument

  • the JP will decide whether or not the Peace Bond should be issued. S/he must believe on a balance of probabilities that your fear is reasonable: this means a similar person in your position would be afraid


Q. WHAT ARE MUTUAL PEACE BONDS?

A. Often JPs will issue a mutual peace bond requiring that you cannot seek out your partner/ex-partner as well. This suggests that you have done something to provoke the harassment, which is not often the case. Also, your partner/ex-partner may try to set you up to break the mutual peace bond. If possible, avoid a mutual peace bond.


Q. HOW DO I CHANGE THE TERMS OF MY PEACE BOND?

A. Changing terms of a Peace Bond is difficult: you will have to go through the entire process again with your new information. Often if a woman wants to loosen a Peace Bond, she will just ignore it.


Q. WHAT HAPPENS IF A PEACE BOND IS BREACHED?

A. Go to a safe place. Have a copy of the order with you. Call the police; they can charge the person breaching the order with a criminal offence and he may serve jail time

Be Aware: Often the police have not been helpful in enforcing these orders; they may refuse to press charges or minimize complaints. If the officer responding to your call does not provide an effective remedy, you should talk to the supervisor. You should also talk to the Victim-Witness Assistance Program staff about what should happen next time the order is broken.



TERMS OF RELEASE

Q. TELL ME MORE ABOUT TERMS OF RELEASE.

A. When a person has been charged by the police, there has to be a bail hearing before he is released from jail. This hearing usually takes place a day or two after the charge is laid. A Justice of the Peace or a judge makes the bail decision based on evidence provided by the Crown Attorney and the accused's lawyer. Where there is a victim, such as in a case of assault or criminal harassment, there will almost always be a requirement that the accused stay away from her: this is called a "term of release". The bail condition will stay in place until the criminal proceedings are over (when the accused is found guilty or not guilty or the charge is withdrawn). Bail conditions can be changed, but the victim must consent if the accused wants the no contact order dropped


Q. HOW DO I GET ONE?

A. When the accused is being released on bail the Crown Attorney will ask you what you need to feel safe: you should say that you do not wish him to be able to approach you, call you, etc. The Crown Attorney will suggest these conditions as Terms of Release to the court. A JP or judge will make a decision based on these suggestions and on the defence's argument.


Q. WHAT HAPPENS IF HE BREACHES?

A. He can be charged with breaching his bail conditions. He should be rearrested and brought in front of the court for a new bail hearing, with new conditions on his release


Q. HOW DO I CHANGE THE TERMS?

A. Go to the Victim-Witness office and ask them to help you approach the Crown Attorney. The Crown will approach the court about having the Terms of Release either tightened or loosened. At the bail review meeting the judge will decide whether or not the change will be permitted.



STALKING

Q. HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE BEING STALKED?

A. Stalking happens when someone who is emotionally obsessed with you demonstrates this through unwanted actions and contacts. Called "Criminal Harassment" by the legal system, stalking is considered a "building block crime" because it often starts with small incidents that get bigger, more frequent, and more threatening.

Stalking behaviour may include repeated phone calls, unwanted gifts, following you, threatening harm to a loved one, harming pets, assault (sexual or physical), kidnapping.

Under the Criminal Code a convicted stalker can be charged. Unfortunately, the law against criminal harassment does not work very well. Police may not lay charges and, even when if they do, the matters often never go to trial, or a verdict of not guilty is reached. The process often focuses on tactics that can be characterized as "victim blaming" and can be very difficult for the woman.

For more information on stalking, visit the OWJN website to read "Stalking Questions & Answers" at http://www.owjn.org/issues/stalking/qa.htm or visit the following sites:


Working to Halt Online Abuse - W.H.O.A.

While not specifically feminist, this site is a good resource for information on online harassment, a.k.a. cyberstalking. Their focus is through education -- of the general public and law enforcement personnel -- and the empowerment of victims. American.

Cyberstalking - METRAC
Information and links to resources on cyberstalking, including safety tips from W.H.O.A.

Stalking/Criminal Harassment FAQ Sheet - METRAC
Print-friendly page with common questions and answers about stalking.

Stalking/Criminal Harassment Statistics Sheet - METRAC
Print-friendly page with section 264 of the Criminal Code as well as recent Canadian statistics on stalking.

Stalking Resources, PATHS
A list of online resources -- mainly legal and federal government links.

A Handbook for Police and Crown Prosecutors on Criminal Harassment
This handbook, designed by the Department of Justice Canada and includes a list of questions police should ask victims during a stalking investigation, advice police should give victims, and details Crown/Victim interviews. Appendix A describes four typical stalking stories. PLEASE NOTE: do not assume that police and Crowns will use this handbook.


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Source: Ontario Women's Justice Network (OWJN)


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Page last updated March 22, 2003