Aiding and abetting with forked tongue | Marcel Strigberger

By Marcel Strigberger

Law360 Canada (May 19, 2023, 2:37 PM EDT) --
Marcel Strigberger
Ever been attacked by a python while going for a leisurely walk in Toronto? Thought so. But the other day some dude in Toronto’s Little Italy near the intersection of Dundas Street West and Manning Avenue, allegedly attacked a man with his large serpent.  Police charged him with assault with a weapon and causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal. A video of the event out on YouTube has been viewed by hundreds of thousands. Does the alleged assailant have defences to the charges? What might these be? Ahem.

Firstly I ask what was he doing walking around the area with a python in the first place? Is it a pet? If so it probably has a name. Likely Norman. Sounds like a good name for a python.

Perhaps the snake was a service animal. That’s understandable. Maybe the gentleman gets anxious often, and he then asks Norman the python to wrap around him and give him a good hug. Nice.

Or maybe the gentleman walked around with the python hoping to get involved in some popular game involving snakes. Maybe he was scheduled to meet someone in a neighbourhood park carrying a ladder. Who knows?

But can Norman be considered a weapon? The Criminal Code defines a weapon as “anything designed to be used or intended for use a) in causing death or injury to any person or b) … for the purpose of threatening or intimidating any person …”

I don’t see how a serpent would meet this definition. I have yet to see any army collecting an arsenal of snakes. Even parties to a duel would use more traditional implements when asking one another to choose their weapon. I never heard of anyone whose honour was slighted saying, “Tomorrow at dawn, behind Henderson’s Bar, cobras.”

Or is it possible that the accused had no control over the python, and it acted aggressively on its own accord? We don’t know all the facts but just maybe the alleged victim made a snide remark to the snake saying something like, “How are things in the Garden of Eden? Tasty apples eh?”

And then Norman just lost it.

And speaking of apples, can the accused even be convicted of both the assault and animal suffering charges? This looks like a violation of the Kienapple principle (Kienapple v. R. [1975] 1 S.C.R. 729). In short a person cannot be convicted of two offences that are as a result of the same act. Double jeopardy. A no no.

In any event wouldn’t it be both strange and ironic in this case to proceed with both charges as this would amount to going with assault with a weapon and causing pain and suffering to the weapon. Bizarro.

And should a judge find the accused in this matter, I sense the sentencing principle of general deterrence will play a prominent role. I can see it:

JUDGE: There is just too much of these attacks with pythons happening Little Italy near the intersection of Dundas Street West and Manning Avenue. The courts must put an end to this rash wave of serpentine violence …

As well this event might have a domino effect on all of us, even extending to airport security. Now in addition to security confiscating what’s in your handbag, if they see scales on it, they may even confiscate the handbag.

Police have asked anyone with information on this incident to contact them. Maybe this information I am providing might be helpful to both the police and the accused. I trust it will. After all I wouldn’t want to give them snake oil.

Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His just launched book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available on Amazon, (e-book) and paper version. Visit Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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