Mischief

The offence of mischief is outlined in section 430(1) of the Criminal Code.

An individual commits mischief when they intentionally destroy or damage property, render property useless, dangerous, inoperative or ineffective, obstruct, interrupt or interfere with the lawful use, enjoyment or operation or property, or obstruct, interrupt or interfere with any person in the lawful use, enjoyment or operation of property.

The Code goes on to outline various categories of mischief including:

  • Mischief in relation to computer data (s. 430 (1.1))
  • Mischief relating to religious property, educational institutions, etc. (s. 430 (4.1))
  • Mischief relating to war memorials (s. 430 (4.11))
  • Mischief in relation to cultural property (s. 430 (4.2))

Mischief charges are further categorized based on the value of damage caused by the accused. Where the damage exceeds $5,000 the accused will be charged with mischief over $5,000. If the damage does not exceed $5,000 the accused will be charged with mischief under $5,000.

Examples

Person A intentionally uses his car to block an intersection, impeding traffic. Person A is interfering with the lawful use of the road by other motorists. Person A is committing mischief.

Person A intentionally shatters the windows of a store with a baseball bat. Person A has willfully caused damage to the property and is guilty of mischief.

Person A hacks into the sever of a business and deletes important files. Person A is guilty of mischief in relation to computer data.

Person A intentionally causes damage to an important piece of art at an art gallery. Person A has committed mischief in relation to cultural property.

Cases

R. v H.T., [2022] ONCJ 59

In R. v H.T., the offender was charged with one count of mischief, among other charges, after getting into an argument with her domestic partner and throwing the partner’s iPod. The iPod was damaged as a result and rendered inoperable.

R. v. Van-Luyk, [2018] ONCJ 528

In R. v. Van-Luyk, the offender was charged with multiple counts of mischief after causing damage on several occasions to his ex-girlfriend’s mother’s car. On the first occasion the offender slashed the tires of the vehicle. On the second occasion he set fire to the vehicle, damaging it beyond repair. On the third occasion, after the car was replaced, the offender attempted to set fire to it again by pouring gasoline on the hood and attempting to ignite it.

Offence Specific Defences

Lack of Intent / Accident

To gain a conviction for mischief, the Crown must prove that the accused “willfully” or intentionally committed mischief. If the accused did not intentionally commit mischief, they cannot be convicted of the offence.

For example, an individual who intentionally parks their car in the middle of the road to block traffic is guilty of mischief. However, an individual whose car breaks down in the middle of the road and impedes traffic has not committed mischief because they did not intend to interfere with the use of the road.

Colour of Right

An individual has the right to damage or destroy anything legally belonging to them. An individual charged with mischief may argue that they genuinely believed that they owned the property they damaged or destroyed, and thus had the right to damage or destroy it. For this defence to be successful, the accused must convince the court that they had a good reason to believe the property was theirs.

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