This page gives general information about Peace Bonds. It does not give legal advice.
Applying for a Peace Bond:
To start the process you or your lawyer file a paper called an "Information" with the Provincial Court. Go to www.courts.ns.ca, and click on 'HOW TO APPLY FOR A PEACE BOND" at the bottom of the Provincial Court page for details on how to apply.
Q - What is a peace bond?
A - A peace bond is a court order in which a person who has threatened or harmed you or your property, or who has attempted to threaten or harm you, agrees to stop the threatening or harmful behaviour and to stay away from you. This person is called the defendant. By signing the peace bond the defendant agrees to keep the peace and be of good behaviour. The peace bond may include other conditions such as the defendant agreeing to have no direct or indirect contact with you.
Q - Does a peace bond stop a person contacting me?
A - A peace bond may contain a condition that the defendant have no direct or indirect contact with you. It is the defendant's responsibility not to contact you directly or indirectly.
Direct contact occurs if the defendant speaks to you in person or on the phone, writes to you, leaves a telephone, voice mail or email message, or comes into your presence.
Indirect contact occurs when the defendant communicates, or tries to communicate, a message to you through another person or by leaving something for you where the defendant knows you will find it.
A peace bond does not prevent you from voluntarily contacting the defendant, but if you do, you may find it more difficult to enforce the peace bond later.
Q - What does a peace bond do?
A - A peace bond attempts to protect you by directing the defendant not to make further threats or cause further harm to you. It warns the defendant that, if the threatening behaviour continues, he or she risks getting a fine, a jail term or other sentence and a criminal record.
Q - In an emergency situation what can I do?
A - You can call 911. In some cases you can apply for an emergency protection order over the phone. For more information go the page on Emergency Protection Orders.
Q - Does a peace bond give the defendant a criminal record?
A - No. A peace bond is not a criminal conviction. The defendant will not get a criminal record by signing the peace bond. However, if the defendant breaks any of the conditions on the bond, he or she may be charged with a criminal offence. If convicted of the offence, the defendant may get a criminal record.
Q - Do I have to lay criminal charges before I can get a peace bond?
A - No. You are not charging the defendant with an offence when you ask the court for a peace bond. You are asking the court to set out conditions intended to protect you from the defendant.
You have to show the judge that you have a reasonable fear because the defendant:
- threatened or assaulted you or your family, or
- threatened or damaged your property, and
- you continue to fear for your safety. If you have no continuing fear of the defendant, it is unlikely that a court will give you a peace bond.
The Criminal Code allows you, or someone on your behalf, to apply for a peace bond or 'lay an Information'. However, the police will not apply for a peace bond for you. The police can investigate criminal charges and may lay charges if you have been physically assaulted or threatened or had your property damaged.
Q - If criminal charges are laid, do I still need a peace bond?
A - Probably not. In most cases, the defendant is released until trial only if he or she promises to have no contact with you directly or indirectly. You should contact the Crown Attorney's office that is dealing with the charge or the Victims' Services Office as soon as possible, to ensure that the defendant is ordered to have no contact with you.
If the defendant pleads guilty or is convicted of the charge, he or she may be placed on probation and ordered to have no contact with you as part of the probation order. This would have the same effect as a peace bond. If you want other conditions to apply, you can ask the Crown Attorney to ask for them to be included in the probation order.
Q - If the defendant has been charged with assault and acquitted, can I still get a peace bond?
A - Yes. If the defendant has been acquitted or had the charges dismissed, you can still apply for a peace bond. You will have to show the judge that you have a reasonable fear of the defendant.
Q - Do I need a lawyer to get a peace bond?
A - You are not required by law to have a lawyer represent you at a peace bond hearing. However, it is a good idea to talk over the situation with a lawyer before you decide what to do. The lawyer can advise you of your rights and explain the court process. Together you can decide if you should hire the lawyer to go to court with you.
Also, you may not feel comfortable speaking in court and questioning witnesses. A lawyer is trained to do this.
Usually Legal Aid will not provide lawyers for peace bond applications. However, if you qualify for Legal Aid and have other issues they are dealing with, you may be able to get some advice from them. In some areas, there are programs that may help you apply for a peace bond. Court staff will usually know if these exist in your community.
Q - Where do I get a peace bond?
A - Only a judge can give you a peace bond. You must go to the Provincial Court or Summary Offence Court. If you have an existing legal proceeding in Family Court or the Supreme Court (Family Division), you may apply for a peace bond in that court.
Before you can get a peace bond, there is a court hearing. You must be prepared to face the defendant in court and say why you are afraid of him or her. If you are concerned about your safety in court or while waiting for court, contact the court administration office.
Q - How do I apply for a peace bond?
A - To start the process you or your lawyer file an paper called an "Information" with the Provincial Court. This will start the process. The Nova Scotia Department of Justice has online information on how to apply for a peace bond - go to www.courts.ns.ca, and click on 'HOW TO APPLY FOR A PEACE BOND" at the bottom of the Provincial Court page.
Q - What goes into a peace bond?
A - By signing a peace bond, the defendant promises to leave you alone, keep the peace and be of good behaviour for the time set out in the peace bond. A peace bond may last up to one year. The judge decides how long it will last.
Before issuing the peace bond, the judge must decide whether to include conditions that will offer you further protection. These could include ordering the defendant:
- to stay away from specific places where you, your spouse or your child regularly go, such as your work, home or school;
- not to communicate with you, your spouse or your child. This includes by phone, by mail, in person, or through another person;
- to post an amount of money and obtain a surety. A surety is a person who vouches for the defendant and agrees to supervise him or her to make sure the conditions are obeyed; and
Other conditions you think are required to ensure your safety. For example, the judge may order that the defendant have no contact with you other than to arrange access to, or exercise access to, the children, or that the defendant not possess firearms, ammunition or explosives, or other weapons.
You or your lawyer may ask for additional conditions to the peace bond. If you do not have a lawyer, do not be afraid to ask the judge for additional conditions.
Q - Will I get a copy of the peace bond?
A -Yes. You should get a certified copy of the bond from the court staff. A certified copy says that it is a true copy of the original peace bond. You can get a copy from the court office as soon as the defendant signs the bond. If you do not feel safe waiting after court, you can pick up a copy at another time.
You should keep the peace bond in a safe place. It gives the police the proof they need to lay charges if the conditions are broken. You should show the police your copy if the defendant breaks the conditions of the peace bond. You may want to carry a copy of the peace bond with you. If you lose your copy, you can get another one at the court where it was issued.
Q - What happens if the defendant breaks the peace bond?
A - If the defendant breaks any of the conditions of the peace bond, you can call the police and report it. The police can charge the defendant with a criminal offence for violating the conditions of the peace bond. If the defendant is found guilty, he or she may be fined or given a jail term or both. The defendant may also be charged with any other offence (for example, assault) he or she committed when the peace bond was broken. The defendant can be charged with breaking the conditions of the peace bond even if he or she was not violent or threatening on that occasion.
It is up to you to report to the police if the peace bond is broken. Even if you decide not to call the police, you should record the day and time that the defendant broke the peace bond and what he or she did because if you later decide to call the police or have to go to court you will need this information.
The peace bond is for your protection. If you ask for a 'no contact' provision in the peace bond and you later willingly contact the defendant, you may have difficulty getting the police to charge the defendant if he or she later breaks the peace bond by contacting you.
Q - Will the police always lay charges if a peace bond is broken?
A - The police can lay charges if there is evidence of a breach of the conditions of the bond. In family violence cases, the Nova Scotia Department of Justice has guidelines that encourage police, Crown Attorneys working within the justice system to arrest, charge and prosecute the defendant when there is evidence to do so. This includes directions to the police to:
- arrest defendants where there is evidence that they have broken a peace bond;
- lay a charge when there are reasonable grounds or arrest someone for breaking a peace bond;
- take into consideration the importance of the victim's safety and that of the children and provide transport to a safe place if necessary; and
- keep the victim informed of the progress of the case.
Charges laid by the police will usually be heard in Provincial Court. If the police do lay a charge, you will be asked to give information on the details of the breach. It is then up to the Crown Attorney to deal with the case against the defendant in court
If the police do not lay charges and you think they should, you should contact police officials in your area to discuss why they are not taking action, or you can take the matter to court yourself.
Q - What happens at a hearing for breaking a peace bond?
A - It may take two to three weeks from the time you report a breach of a bond until the police serve a summons on the defendant. The summons tells the defendant what the charges are and the court date for the hearing.
Court staff are required to give priority to spousal/partner violence matters.
If the police do not lay charges, you may lay private charges. If you do, you or your lawyer will have to present the evidence of the breach of the peace bond in court. You will have to give evidence. If possible, have witnesses come to court to back up your evidence. The defendant can also have witnesses come to court.
If the defendant has witnesses, you or your lawyer may ask them questions.
Q - What happens if the defendant is found guilty of breaking the peace bond?
A - Being found guilty of breaking a peace bond is a serious matter. The defendant may get a criminal record and, depending on the seriousness of the breach, could get up to two years in jail. It is rare for a defendant to get the maximum sentence. A common sentence for a first offence is release on probation with conditions such as staying away from you and your family.
If the defendant breaks the peace bond by following you around (called stalking) so that you fear for your safety or that of your family, the judge will consider the stalking as an aggravating factor (a factor that makes things worse) when sentencing the defendant.
Q - What if I have a peace bond against my spouse and we get back together?
A - If you have a peace bond against your spouse and you decide to try living together again, it is a breach of the 'no contact' condition in the peace bond.
You or the defendant may go back to the court that issued the peace bond and ask to have the 'no contact' condition amended or deleted. The other conditions of the peace bond, such as the requirement that the defendant keep the peace and be of good behaviour, may remain in place. However, you should be aware that, depending on the circumstances, a judge may be reluctant to enforce the terms of the peace bond if you get back together with your partner.
If the defendant becomes violent and the peace bond is still in effect, you can go back to court and ask for the 'no contact' clause to be reinstated.
Q - If I have a peace bond again my spouse can he/she still see the children?
A - If you have a peace bond against your spouse, it should not affect his or her rights of access to the children, unless the peace bond forbids contact with them. If you have legal custody of the children and the defendant has legal access to them, you should point this out to the judge at the peace bond hearing. The judge can take the defendant's access rights into account when setting the conditions for the bond.
The judge may still order the defendant to have no contact with you even if he or she has access to the children. The peace bond might provide that arrangements for access be made through a third person, such as a neighbour, friend or family member you trust. (You should ask this person's permission and be sure that he or she will agree to assist you.) The judge could order that the defendant contact you only by phone or
email and only to arrange access. The judge could also order that the defendant remain in his or her car when picking up or dropping off the children and that you send them out to the car either on their own or with someone. The judge could also order that the children be picked up or dropped off only in a certain public place. If the defendant has access to your children but you do not feel safe having any contact with the defendant, you should explain this to the judge and tell why you feel this way.
If you already have a peace bond and you and your spouse are going to court to decide on custody or access, you should tell your lawyer or the judge about the peace bond.
Q - Will a peace bond keep me safe?
A - A peace bond can be a good deterrent in many cases. It can help prevent threats and assaults. Going to court and signing the bond before a judge may be enough to persuade the defendant to keep away from you. However, not all defendants respect the terms of a peace bond and you still need to be careful for your safety.
A peace bond may not always be the best solution to your problem. For example:
1. The threat of getting a criminal record may not be enough to stop the defendant from assaulting you. The bond is most effective against a person who has a basic respect for the law.
2. It can take weeks or even months to get a peace bond and even longer to get the defendant convicted if he or she breaks the bond. This is not much help if you are threatened with immediate physical violence. Then it may be best to contact the police to lay an assault charge against the defendant.
3. A defendant will not be charged for breach of a peace bond unless the police feel that there are reasonable grounds to believe the bond was broken. You can take the matter to court yourself if the police do not lay charges, but you would have to present the case yourself or hire a lawyer to do it for you.
4. Even if the defendant serves a sentence for a breach of the peace bond, he or she might continue the threatening or violent behaviour until you are forced to go through the whole process again.
5. Peace bonds are not permanent. They last for a maximum period of one year. If you want to get another peace bond after the first one ends, you must make a new application.
6. If you have been assaulted, a peace bond is not always the best way to deal with the situation. You can instead contact the police to lay an assault charge against the person who hurt you, your child or property.
7. There are 'anti-stalking' laws that may help protect you if you fear for your safety because someone is repeatedly:
- following you around,
- calling you, your family, friends or workplace,
- watching your home or workplace, and
- doing anything which threatens you or your family.
If this is happening to you, you should talk with the police. Anti-stalking laws are also called 'criminal harassment' laws.
There may be services in your community to help you develop a safety plan if you are threatened. A safety plan helps you to consider ways to protect yourself and your children. The police or Victim Services Division of the provincial Department of Justice can advise if such services are available in your community.
Q - Where can I get more information?
Depending on your situation and on where you live in the province, there may be agencies that can help you such as:
Victim Services Division,
Nova Scotia Department of Justice
Halifax Region - 424.3307
Kentville 679.6201 or 1.800.565.1805 toll free
New Glasgow 755.7110 or 1.800.565.7912 toll free
Sydney 563.3655 or 1.800.565.0071 toll free
Go to http://www.gov.ns.ca/just/victim_Services/default.asp for more information about the Department of Justice Victim Services.
The Regional Victim Services Program provides information, support and advocacy for victims of crime within the criminal justice system. Services include the provision of information to victims on their particular case and on the criminal justice process; liaison with police, Crown Attorney, and other justice agencies as the case proceeds through the system; court preparation; and assistance with criminal injuries compensation and victim impact statements.
The program also provides a comprehensive service to address the special needs of child victims or witnesses as they prepare to testify in court.
Last reviewed February 2016