Vigilante Justice: Dealing with Bullies

Recently in Fredericton Provincial Court, a 31-year-old mother was sentenced to house arrest for six-months for assaulting another person with a baseball bat.

The mother claimed she was standing up for her young son who was being bullied by the person she hit. At sentencing, the Judge denounced that behavior, noting that it is not how people should deal with their problems.

This is a common misconception; we do not have the right to use force or take matters into our own hands. It is instinct at times to defend and protect the ones we love; but there are limits to how far this protection can go when it comes to physical violence.

In our justice system, the concept of self-defence or the defence of another, or the defence of property, is linked to the concept of reasonable use of force. What is reasonable will depend on the specific circumstances of the accused person, other parties and the act itself.

Section 34(2) of the Criminal Code of Canada lists some of the relevant factors, some include:

  • the extent to which the use of force was imminent…;
  • whether any party…used or threatened to use a weapon; and
  • the size, age, gender and physical capabilities of the parties…

So simply because you are defending yourself or another, does not justify any range of action in defence. Courts usually consider whether such a response was proportionate to the perceived threat and whether the use of force was justified.

For parents who want to teach their children how to respond to bullies, the adage of an “eye for an eye” is often a faulty concept. Problems are rarely, if ever, solved through violent means. There are always other options available. Teaching children to use violence to address their problems sends the message that violence is an acceptable solution. Most often it is not. There is a narrow window at law of when violence would be okay.

Two wrongs do not make a right. Taking the law into your own hands to address a wrong, can and will have consequences. Often times, you are breaking the law yourself and putting yourself in danger. The mother in this recent decision will now have a criminal record and face a period of probation following her house arrest.

If you or your children are having problems with a bully, consider all your options. If you feel you have no where to turn but to violence, speak to a lawyer!

All for now,

Spencer MacInnis