Bottle Thrown on 100m Track – What’s the Charge?

Seconds prior to the starter’s pistol at Sunday’s men’s 100m men’s final at Olympic Stadium in London a spectator threw what would appear to be a beer bottle behind the man, Usain Bolt, who, under 10 seconds later, would go to win the gold medal (defending his gold medal from Beijing).  The man who threw the bottle, who had been apparently been heckling Bolt before the race, was caught in the act and pushed by none other than a judo bronze medallist, Dutch competittor Edith Bosch (this would be called poetic justice by Lord Sebastian Coe, chair of the London organizing committee).   The man was arrested and released on bail the next morning, facing numerous charges (according to the article linked above, the charges were using threatening words, disorderly behavior and harassment).  Click here for a review of the story and video from The Huffington Post.

I was trying to think of what criminal charges could be laid had this happened in Canada.  The bottle never hit anyone, and the intention may not have been for it to do so, but I could see an attempt assault charge possibly being laid.  Had there been any threats utterred while Bolt was heckled then there could have been charges laid for utterring threats.  A mischief charge under s. 430(1) seems to be somewhat of a stretch as it involves the destruction of property or the obstruction of the use or enjoyment of the property (I don’t think the argument that some couldn’t enjoy the race would fly).  There’s a charge of common nuisance under s. 180 but that would require the initial act was unlawful or their was a failure to discharge a legal duty.  One possibility is a charge of cause disturbance under s. 175(1) as this person’s actions seem to fall within ss. (a):

175(1) Every one who

(a) not being in a dwelling-house, causes a disturbance in or near a public place,

(i) by fighting, screaming, shouting, swearing, singing or using insulting or obscene language,

(ii) by being drunk, or

(iii) by impeding or molesting other persons.

Of all the charges I mentioned this seems to fit the bill.  The spectator began by heckling, was possibly drunk, and impeded both the racers (American bronze medallist Justin Gatlin said he heard the bottle drop) and the spectators’ enjoyment of the race (Edith Bosch, the judoko who pushed him, did not even get to see the race).

The whole incident reminded me of two examples of poor spectator behaviour from Toronto.  This past May a Blue Jays fan threw beer at the umpire who had ejected Brett Lawrie for slamming his helmet on the ground (it would bounce back and hit the umpire).  In this case the charges would be obvious as the throwing of beer directly at the umpire, if proven, would likely constitute an assault.  Then there was the infamous incident of the Maple Leafs fan throwing waffles on the ice in protest of the team’s poor play and was subsequently charged with mischief.  I blogged about this after it occurred back in January of 2011.

This blog post was written by Toronto Criminal Lawyer Adam Goodman. Adam can be reached at 416-477-6793 or by email at adam@aglaw.ca.

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