The news of an assault on a Russian embassy staff member by a Canadian reservist over the weekend stemmed concerns of national security. With a media ban ordered at the bail hearing news of what occurred will have to wait until the accused is before the court. While the incident is strange, the criminal charges of assault, assault with a weapon, and assault causing bodily harm are all serious charges that bring with them some of the most serious penalties, often years in jail.
This case raises an additional difficulty in that the complainant has returned to Russia and will, reportedly, not return to Canada. As our own Norman Boxall, past president of the Criminal Lawyers Association, told reporters, the absence of a complainant would be a serious blow to the prosecution and significantly weaken its case. Normally the police have statutory powers to compel complainants to testify and can charge witnesses with lack of compliance, but in this case, as he is outside of their jurisdiction there will be little they can do without Russia’s compliance. Trying a case without a complainant is a difficult endeavour for the prosecution, and may aid the defence in this case.
The accused is out of custody on bail, and while he awaits his trial, the media will likely continue their sensational coverage of this incident. While he is presumed innocent, as all accused people are, his reputation will be forever marked by this event, and even if he is acquitted of the charges, he will likely deal with suspicion from others.
Source: Soldier accused of stabbing Russian diplomat gets bail by Chris Cobb (Ottawa Citizen, March 17, 2014)