Legal News

New Powers of Citizen's Arrest Enacted

The Citizen’s Arrest and Self Defence Act came into force on March 11, 2013, making important changes to the provisions governing self-defence and a citizen’s power to arrest. These amendments could be significant for employers with private security or whom are prepared to take action against theft at a moments’ notice.

Arguably the most important changebrought about by this legislation is the addition of the ability for a citizento make an arrest within a “reasonable time” after an offence is committed. Under the former provision, arrests couldonly be made where a citizen caught an offender in the midst of the criminalact.

Allowing an arrest to occur a reasonabletime after an offence is committed is a measure introduced on the back of thepolitical will following the prosecution of David Chen, a shop owner in Torontowho was charged with assault and unlawful confinement in 2010. Mr. Chen, the owner of a convenience store calledthe Lucky Moose Food Market, had participated in a citizen’s arrest of anindividual who had returned to his store after stealing plants. Mr. Chen and two of his employees attackedand bound the returning thief, and were transporting him in the back of a vanwhen they were arrested.

Mr. Chen and his employees were acquittedin a colorful judgment of the Ontario Court of Justice. The Court found that the thief’s return tothe store was part of the same criminal transaction and that there was a reasonabledoubt as to the excessiveness of the force used in the arrest.

Mr. Chen became a central figure in theenactment of the Citizen’s Arrest andSelf Defence Act: he was mentioned by Parliament in its discussions of thebill (Bill C-26) and Canada’s Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada announced enactment of the bill from theLucky Moose this week.

The Citizen’sArrest and Self Defence Act also amends the provisions relating toself-defence in the Criminal Code toallow persons to take action (including action by force) where they have a”reasonable belief” that they or another person are threatened with force oreven in the defence of property.

The concept of “reasonableness” is leftundefined and will be subject to interpretation by the Courts. Citizens remain urged to exercise extremecaution when using force in the course of making an arrest.

Bill C-26

R v. Chen

Questions regarding the information in this article may be directed to Paul Fairweather, Partner.