Violence in Sports

Violence in Sports: Evidentiary Problems in Criminal Prosecutions

Gilles Létourneau & Antoine Manganas*

The outcome of most Canadian criminal cases involving violence in sport must give Crown prosecutors a feeling of helplessness and frustration. Despite the good intentions of those responsible for enforcing the criminal law, the inherent nature of sport highlights the inefficiency of using classical legal procedures and concepts to curb violence in sport. Not only have there been many acquittals, but penalties for the rare conviction have been light. Several factors have contributed toward the inadequacy of the criminal law in this area.

In criminal proceedings, the Crown must prove all the constituent elements of an offence, except under certain circumstances prescribed by law. The offences most frequently occurring in sport are those related to assault and bodily harm. In these cases, the Crown must prove both the actus reus of the offence and the state of mind of the person who committed it at the exact moment he committed it. In assault cases, the Crown must prove that the accused acted intentionally with a “blameworthy state of mind.” In cases of bodily harm, the accused must have acted intentionally or, at the very least, have shown a reckless and lawless disregard for the safety of another. Blows and injuries inflicted through ordinary lack of care or through negligence are not punishable in Canada as they are in other countries. Proving an offence is not an easy task for the Crown, especially with regard to certain sports. The speed of the action, the stress of the game, repeated physical contact, and the underlying aggressiveness of both participants and spectators make it very difficult to prove the constituent elements of an offence by conventional means, namely, the testimony of witnesses.

This study examines the possibility of the more frequent use of alternative forms of evidence: videotape evidence, proof of similar acts by the accused, the testimony of expert witnesses such as sports delegates, and the use of a “sport record.” Finally, procedures to facilitate the Crown’s work in preventing and reducing violence in sport will be discussed…


* M. Létourneau is the Director of the Legal Research Department, Quebec Ministry of Justice & A. Manganas is a Professor of Law, Université Laval.


Το παρόν άρθρο του Καθηγητή δημοσιεύτηκε το 1978 στην OSGOODE HALL LAW JOURNAL, VOL. 16, NO. 3.

Copyright, 1978, Gilles Létourneau and Antoine Manganas.

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