As discussed in previous blog articles on assault and battery, in law an assault is the intentional creation of the apprehension of immediate harmful or offensive conduct but without actual touching. On the other hand, battery occurs whenever unlawful force is intentionally inflicted on another person that is either physically harmful or offensive to his reasonable sense of dignity. The main difference between assault and battery is that an assault can occur without actual physical touching as noted in a previous blog post.
In Schuetz v. Piper 2021 BCSC 2209, the trial judge awarded a female victim of domestic violence approximately $800,000.00. The traumatizing battery inflicted upon her by her ex-husband was found by the trial judge to result in multiple injuries including a mild traumatic brain injury, headaches, dizziness, trouble concentrating, PTSD and depression.
Before the civil action, the assailant was charged criminally. In the criminal trial, he surprisingly received an absolute discharge.
As discussed in a CBC article on this domestic violence award, these 2 decisions highlight differences in how incidents of intimate partner violence are handled in the criminal court system, where the case is brought forward by the Crown prosecution, as opposed to civil court, where the injured claimant, in this case the victim of abuse, can have more control over the evidence brought forward.
The other major difference between criminal and civil cases is in relation to the standard of proof required. In criminal matters, the standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt” which is an extremely high burden to meet on the evidence. With this, even the smallest doubt of an accused’s guilt will not result in a conviction. On the other hand, the standard in civil matter is on the “balance of probabilities” which is assessed according to probabilities or +50%. This is one of the reasons why the assailant was not convicted criminally while he was found liable (at fault) civilly for the injuries he inflicted on the victim.