Ontario has had 5 Amber Alerts this year, and each one has attracted multiple calls from the public complaining about the Alert. Lots of people have been calling for people complaining 911 about Amber alerts to face consequences. Thankfully, this time around, the 5 children from Jordan, Ontario who went missing were found safe. But not all of the Amber Alerts have ended as well. In February, Riya Rajkumar was found dead in a Brampton house. The other 3 Alerts thankfully also ended with the children being found safe. In one case, the father who was the subject of the Amber Alert was not charged. Today we’ll look at abductions.
The Criminal Code contains a number of offences about abduction. Part VIII of the Code deals with offences against the person. Sections 279-286 are about kidnapping, trafficking in persons, hostage taking and abduction. Of those, 280-283 are the main sections about abduction.
Section 280 deals with abduction of a person under 16. This offence requires that someone take a person under the age of 16 out of the possession of, and against the will of, that person’s parent/guardian. Or, out of the will of any other person who has lawful care of the person under 16. It also applies if a person causes a person under 16 to be taken. The offence carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 5 years.
Section 281 is about the abduction of a person under 14. Section 281 is broader than the prior one. It includes not only ‘taking’, but also enticing, concealing, detaining, receiving, or harbouring. When those actions are done with the intent to deprive a parent/guardian, or any other person who has lawful care of the young person, of possession of the young person, then an offence may be committed. This sort of offence carries a maximum sentence of 10 years
Section 282 concerns abduction in contravention of custody or parenting orders. It uses the language of s.281, and like it, applies to children under 14 years of age. It has the added requirement that the action be done in contravention of a custody or parenting order. A section 282 offence carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, but may also be punishable on summary conviction.
The difference between section 281 and 282 is that 281 applies to people who commit the offence who are not the parent, guardian, or person with lawful care or charge of the child. Section 282 applies to someone who is the parent/guardian/person with lawful care of the child.
This reflects a more understanding approach, with a lower minimum sentence. All the same, despite the ability to be prosecuted as a summary conviction, the maximum sentence of 10 years for both offences reflects their seriousness.
Section 283 is plain ‘abduction’. It reflects the language in section 282, but also applies in the absence of a custody or parenting order.
Sections 284 and 285 provided defences to these offences. Nobody shall be found guilty of an offence sections 281 to 230 if he establishes the abduction was done with the consent of the parent, guardian, or other person having lawful possession of the young person (s.284). Nobody shall be found guilty of an offence in sections 280-283 if doing so was necessary to protect the young person from danger of imminent harm, or if the person charged was escaping from danger of imminent harm. The consent of the young person, however, is not a defence (s.286).
The law of abductions is complicated, but getting good legal help isn’t. Having a lawyer experienced in the charges you’re dealing with can make the difference between conviction or acquittal. There are lots of rules of evidence, and defences to be explored. The courts do their best to help people represent themselves, but nothing is as effective as experienced counsel.