Monday, 17 June 2013

Thoughts on the Nathan Beaulieu assault charges and court case

There's not much new to report on the Nathan Beaulieu assault charges, and resultant court case.  He had an appearance on June 11th, and a date was set for another appearance on July 9.

Some people are dismissing it as a mere bar fight, and nothing to worry about.  They rely on their personal experience that such incidents don't carry much consequence, but I think that's underestimating the severity of the situation.

Something we have to remember is that if this was just some bar fight, the Beaulieus wouldn't be going to court over it.  You're not charged with assault during a normal punchup.  When two guys stand toe-to-toe and go at it, they're both deemed to consent to the fight.  As such, neither can claim to have been assaulted, which is defined roughly as any unwanted application of force by someone on someone.

Practically, this force has to be more than trifling and transitory in nature, for the incident to be considered assault.  I've often had to direct someone's behaviour with a gentle touch on the shoulder or back guiding them in the direction I wanted them to go.  Sometimes my 'adversary' would jerk away and loudly proclaim to be a lawyer or a law student, and that what I'd just done was an assault.

"Oh, so you're a law student?" I'd reply, borrowing a quote from a partner, "Well then let me give you a lesson in law."  And I'd hit them with the 'trifling and transitory' phrase taken from case law, and that would usually shut them up, if they weren't way too drunk.

So in this case, for the Beaulieus to be going to court for assault, either the other party(ies) didn't initially consent to a fight, or the fight got completely out of hand, ie: shoving match to get someone out the door escalates to someone getting booted in the head, or two pugilists gang up on one person, or the 'winner' of the fight persists long after the fight is reasonably over.  According to the Sun article, the injuries were relatively light, but there was a case of two guys teaming up on one adversary.

As much as I'm looking forward to finding out what actually happened, and I hold out hope that Nathan will be exonerated or get off lightly, I can't be as cavalier as some commenters are, and just shrug it off as boys being boys, and that we're just dealing with a dustup commonly seen at parties and drinking establishments.  Police officers see these run-of-the-mill encounters all the time, and are capable of sending these combatants on their way without recommending charges to Crown Counsel.  That they did, and that Crown decided to proceed, indicates that we're dealing with something more serious.

Stuff like this reminds me of a senior colleague who scoffed when some of us were discussing a particular event, and whether someone was innocent.

"Innocent?"  he cried. "People aren't innocent.  Some are found not guilty, but nobody's ever innocent."

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