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Making a Threat? Don’t say it seriously!

While the accused was incarcerated, he had a telephone conversation with his ex‑girlfriend during which he repeatedly told her that he would kill her upon his release if she proceeded with her planned abortion of their child. The accused was charged with uttering threats. At trial, the ex‑girlfriend testified that the words uttered by the accused had not intimidated her or caused her fear as the accused frequently talked in that manner. The accused was acquitted, the trial judge having a reasonable doubt whether the accused intended his words to intimidate or be taken seriously. The Court of Appeal dismissed the Crown’s appeal.

It is an essential element of the offence under s. 264.1(1)(a) of the Criminal Code that the accused intended his or her words to intimidate or to be taken seriously. The trial judge properly considered the words uttered in the context of the evidence of the recipient of the threats and concluded that the evidence left her with a reasonable doubt as to whether the accused had the requisite intent. There is no basis on which to conclude that the trial judge committed any error of law in concluding as she did.

Citation: R. v. O’Brien, 2013 SCC 2

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