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Stephen R. Biss

Barrister & Solicitor

303-470 Hensall Circle

Mississauga, ON

L5A 3V4


Youth Courts We Cover

We represent young persons at all GTA Youth Court Courthouses including Brampton, Milton, Orangeville, Guelph, and Toronto.

​© Copyright 2018 Stephen R. Biss, Barrister & Solicitor

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Is it a criminal offence to watch a crime?

Watching a crime in progress

Last year a number of my clients were charged with criminal offences just because they were physically present at the scene of a crime by another young person. Whether the crime is a mischief, a robbery, or an assault, police seem to think that if a group of young persons are present they should all be charged. Police think of the group as a "gang" acting together.

It's easy to assume equal responsibility.

On arrest, each of the young persons gets arrested and brought back to the police station. Each individual is put in a different room at the police station and they are asked to wait - a long time. Often a parent will show up at the police station and perhaps be invited into the room with the young person. The parent, of course, is very curious about what happened and asks the police what this is all about. Maybe the police will give the parent information, maybe they won't. But at this point, the parent will often begin their own interrogation of the child. Often that ends up helping the police.

Lawyers call the persons really responsible for the offence "parties to the offence". You can be a party if you aid (help), abet (encourage), or do something acting together with the primary participant. That might include being a "lookout" to a break and enter.

But if your child never throws a rock in the mischief, never goes inside the house in the B&E, never says anything during the robbery, never shouts encouragement during the fight, THEY MAY NOT BE GUILTY OF ANYTHING.

Even if your child did nothing, they should decline to make a statement to the police. You and your child should be polite to the police. Neither you nor your child need to offer an explanation. Your explanation is not going to help the police decide whether or not to charge your child. If they have enough evidence they will charge your son or daughter. It only makes it easier for the police to lay a charge if they have a statement.

Your son or daughter should ask to phone duty counsel from the police station.

After the charge is laid, consult a lawyer about whether or not your child is a party to the offence. Don't make any snap decision at Court. Don't simply admit responsibility to get alternative measures or diversion. Get disclosure and consult a lawyer. The lawyer can get more disclosure. Was there a video that shows who did what? What are the statements by the other young persons?

There may be insurance implications if your child is charged as part of the group. The insurance company for the school that was damaged or the business that was broken into, may try to sue you and your child, if the damage was serious. It is very important in such circumstances to not make any statement that helps the school board or insurance company prove your child's liability for damages. Get legal advice promptly.

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