Being charged with Assault with a Weapon usually conjures up images of more conventional weapons. But for one Ontario police constable the use of his tactical police gloves has led to weapon related charges. This police officer is currently before the courts on charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault, and assault with a deadly weapon.
Back in 2016, a man died after receiving repeated blows to the head during an arrest. The Crown alleges that these blows and the use of reinforced gloves are the cause of death.
Under the Criminal Code, just about anything can be considered a weapon under the right circumstances. The basic definition classifies anything as a weapon that is:
- Designed to be a weapon
- Used as a weapon
- Intended to be used as a weapon
So whether or not tactical gloves are considered a weapon depends on their design, use, and intent. Any single one of those three elements can result in an assault with a weapon charge.
DO POLICE TACTICAL GLOVES COUNT AS A WEAPON?
In the case above, the gloves in question are the Oakley assault gloves. Although the gloves are not approved police weapons, the defence denies that the gloves should be classified as such.
The gloves have plastic moulding over the knuckles. The hardened surface has the potential to act like brass knuckles (a prohibited weapon), making punches a more significant, potentially lethal force.
However, the manufacturer description does not represent the design as a weapon. Instead, it cites the plastic moulding as being designed to “protect against impact.” The gloves are categorized as being for motorcycle and power sports. Those high-impact activities do suggest that the design is indeed meant to be protective.
Regardless of the original design of an object, how the accused intended to use it can still deem it a weapon. For example, a baseball bat is designed purely for sport. However, if someone were to strike, or threaten to strike, someone with a bat, it has the potential to be a deadly weapon.
In this case, there the defence lawyers deny that the intended use of the assault gloves was not as a weapon, but as protective equipment and as part of the uniform.
The gloves in question do fit the uniform requirements of the Ontario police standards and provisions. The only provisions are that the gloves must be black and allow finger movement. In fact, reinforced gloves have even been issued to some officers in the past. And similar gloves have been used for over two decades.
There is also a good basis for the intent being protective, rather than offensive. In the case, the criminal defence lawyers confirmed that a serious hand injury has the potential to end a police officers career. Punching, a method of applying force that police officers are trained in, has a high risk for hand injuries. As such, it makes sense that an officer wants to protect their hands with reinforced gloves.
The actual use of gloves presents a different challenge. Even if an object is neither designed nor intended for use as a weapon, how they are used can still qualify them for assault with a weapon. With the potential for damage that these gloves provide, whether their use counts as a weapon can vary depending on the scenario.
In the case of this police officer, the examination looks at why the officer was wearing these gloves and whether the application of them conflicted with his training and what they are legally allowed to do. As well as whether the use of force appeared necessary at the time.
WHAT ARE POLICE ALLOWED TO DO
Although police officers are trained to punch as a means of applying force, they are generally taught to avoid punching the head or groin wherever possible. Where an officer repeatedly strikes someone in the head, they need to satisfy that that application of force was necessary.
As well, police are given the option to use improvised weapons in extreme situations. So even if the gloves are determined to be a weapon, the defence may be able to argue that their use was within their training and legal options -if they can show that the use appeared necessary.
HIRE AN ASSAULT LAWYER IN TORONTO
In assault with a weapon, the wide classification of a ‘weapon’ in Canada leaves a lot of room. Defending these assault charges often comes down to the individual situation and the experience of the lawyer.
William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal defence lawyer with over a decade of experience defending assault charges, including assault with a weapon and aggravated assault.Contact Jaksa today for a consultation.