Considerations Before Agreeing to PARS

An individual charged with a domestic-related incident (which essentially means a charge involving those who are in a relationship, typical charges include assault, uttering threats, etc.) faces a number of different challenges.  The most obvious is dealing with the actual criminal charge and the potential consequences of being found guilty.  Another challenge, which in many cases can be more difficult than facing the charge itself, is the bail conditions that one is inevitably placed under.  In the vast majority of domestic related incidents, the individual charged will be prohibited from having any contact with the alleged victim or complainant.

For couples living together, often with children, this can be a major hurdle.  The accused person will be forced to find somewhere else to live, they will need to arrange access to children through a third-party, and they will need to sort out financial issues without contacting the other party.

The condition itself makes a lot of sense in serious domestic situations.  If a party is being abused, this is a way of keeping them safe.  Many cases, however, are not that serious.  This is where Partner Assault Response Services (PARS), which may go by different names, such as direct accountability, comes into play.  PARS is a 16-week program that works with accused parties on issues such as anger management and what led them to commit a criminal act.

By agreeing to enter PARS, the Crown will usually vary one’s bail which will allow them to return home while they are completing the course.  The problem with PARS is that, in most cases, it involves pleading guilty.  The way it works is that one enters a guilty plea, the bail is varied, and they return for sentencing about six months later once the program has been completed.  The Crown will usually take a light sentencing position (such as an absolute or conditional discharge) provided the report prepared by the agency providing the PARS program comes back favourably.

The main issue defence lawyers have with PARS is the requirement that a guilty plea be entered.  Pleading guilty, even if the accused eventually receives a discharge, can have long-term consequences, especially if one has no criminal record.  The problem is that the guilty plea may be the only way for an accused person to return home.  Should they decide to invoke their absolute right to a trial then they may be stuck with severe bail conditions for a year or longer.  This is especially bothersome for those who are factually innocent of an offence and cannot ethically plead guilty but also for those who want to put the Crown to their burden to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt.  There is also the reality that in many cases the sentence imposed after being found guilty at trial may be no worse than what the Crown is offering should they plead guilty.

It is important for those charged with domestic-related criminal offences to speak with a criminal lawyer prior to entering a guilty plea.  A criminal lawyer will be able to review the case and help the person charged make the decision that is in their best interest.  It is also possible for a criminal lawyer to present alternatives to the Crown that may not involve the entering of a guilty plea.

For more information on my criminal law practice, click here.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply