What is a piratical acts charge?
Piratical acts are covered under section 75 in Part II of the Criminal Code. Part II covers “Offences Against Public Order”.
Piratical acts are outlined within this section and occur where an individual has stolen a Canadian ship or its cargo, does or attempts to mutiny, or incites another to commit a piratical act.
This charge is an indictable offence, meaning that punishments tend to be higher and more serious, as the crimes themselves are more serious than those falling under summary or hybrid offences. Piratical acts fall under the category of exclusive jurisdiction offences, meaning that a piratical acts charge will be tried in a superior court of criminal jurisdiction.
Some examples of a piratical act charge may include the following:
- The accused was found stealing a Canadian ship
- The accused was found damaging the cargo of a Canadian ship
- The accused was found inciting mutiny on a Canadian ship
- The accused was found stealing cargo off of a Canadian ship
The defences available to a piratical acts charge are entirely dependent on the facts of your case.
However, some defences to a piratical acts charge may include:
- The accused was factually innocent of the crime, for example, wrongfully identified as the person who committed a piratical act;
- The accused was convicted of committing a piratical act through a mistake of fact;
- The accused was coerced into committing a piratical act;
A Piratical Act charge is an indictable offence, which entails a maximum punishment as follows:
- Imprisonment for a term of up to fourteen years.
Punishments for piratical acts are defined within section 75 of the Criminal Code. As noted in section 75, this charge carries and imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years. A piratical act conviction would also affect employment opportunities, immigration status and more.
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Overview of the Offence
According to s. 75 of the Criminal Code:
75 Everyone who, while in or out of Canada,
(a) steals a Canadian ship,
(b) steals or without lawful authority throws overboard, damages or destroys anything that is part of the cargo, supplies or fittings in a Canadian ship,
(c) does or attempts to do a mutinous act on a Canadian ship, or
(d) counsels a person to do anything mentioned in paragraph (a), (b) or (c),
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
The Guilty Act (Actus Reus)
The actus reus for a piratical acts charge under s. 75 is established by proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, of the following:
Piratical acts s. 75
- The accused was either inside or outside of Canada;
- The accused committed a piratical act, such as stealing a Canadian ship or cargo; and
- The accused did so on and/or to a Canadian ship
- The accused was either inside or outside of Canada; and
- The accused counselled another to steal a Canadian ship, damage a Canadian ship or its cargo, or attempt to or do a a mutinous act upon a Canadian ship.
The actus reus refers to the act or omission itself that constitutes the physical elements of a crime. Thus, the physical aspect of a piratical act would be constituted by any physical act or omission of a piratical act as defined in s. 75. One example would be that the theft of a Canadian ship by an accused would be considered the actus reus of the offence.
The Guilty Mind (Mens Rea)
The mens rea for a piratical acts charge under s. 75 includes proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that:
- The accused knowing committed a piratical act, such as stealing a Canadian ship or committing a mutinous act upon a Canadian ship;
- The accused had no lawful excuse for committing a piratical act.
- The accused knowingly advised another to commit a piratical act; stealing a Canadian ship, damaging a Canadian ship or its cargo, or attempting to or doing. Mutinous act upon a Canadian ship;
- The accused had no lawful excuse for counselling another to commit a piratical act.
Mens rea is defined as the knowledge or intention of committing the crime. Thus, knowing that one is committing a mutiny on a Canadian ship and doing so, fully aware of one’s action, consists of the mens rea of the charge.
How to Beat a Piratical Act Charge
As in every other case and all other charges, possible defences will depend on the facts and circumstances of your case. These as well as the evidence available will dictate the strength of each available defence. However, listed below are some common defences that may help fight a piratical acts charge.
Factual innocence is one possible defence against a piratical acts charge. If you can prove, using the facts and the evidence of your case, that you were not engaged in an act of piracy, or, that the evidence cannot place you as the perpetrator of a piratical act, then you may be able to defend yourself by stating that you were factually innocent.
Mistake of fact
A mistake of fact defence hinges upon a mistake about a fact or a mistaken belief in a case. Thus, one example would be mistaking the identity of the perpetrator of a piratical act. Thus, if you can reasonably prove that you were not aware of a fact that made an act piratical, or that they acted based upon an honest mistake, you may be able to use mistake of fact as a defence. This defence is based on a lack of the required mental state awareness, thus hinging on the mens rea of the offence. An example of a mistake of fact would be someone taking cargo off the ship, believing it belongs to them, when it in fact does not.
Another possible defence to a piratical acts charge is duress. Duress is proven when the five criteria listed below are met.
- That there was a threat of present/future death or physical harm,
- That the accused reasonably believes that the threat would be carried out,
- That the accused had no safe way to avoid the harm,
- That it is because of the threat, that the accused did what they did, and
- That the harm that the accused caused was not disproportionate to the harm that was threatened against the accused.
All five of the elements of duress must be met for the defence of duress to apply.
A defence based on the identity of the perpetrator may be a defence to a piracy charge. For this defence to be raised successfully in court, you would have to prove that you did not commit a piratical act. This is a defence that states that the accused was wrongfully convicted. Evidence that can be submitted to create a solid identification defence is eyewitness identification, DNA evidence, media and fingerprints.
Any applicable Charter defences
The Charter sets out your rights and freedoms before and after your arrest. If the police fail to abide by these rights deliberately or inadvertently, it could aid in your defence. If any of your Charter rights have been violated before or after your arrest, you may be able to have some or all of the evidence that the Crown is relying on to secure a conviction excluded under s. 24(2) of the Charter.
The Criminal Code provides for a possible maximum term of imprisonment of no more than 14 years for individuals convicted of a piratical acts charge.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the laws on piracy in Canada?
Piracy in Canada is defined within two sections of the Criminal Code. Section 74 deals with piracy. Piracy occurs when, by the law of nations, a person commits an act considered piratical, and committed on navigable waters, inside or outside of Canadian jurisdiction. This section is also partially defined through the law of nations, defined through the body of laws and treaties agreed upon by United Nations member states, such as Canada.
Section 75 is on piratical acts and is the subject of this article. This section describes piratical acts: anyone who steals a Canadian ship, steals or damages Canadian cargo, attempts or succeeds in a mutiny on a Canadian ship or advises someone else to commit a piratical act is liable to a term of imprisonment not exceeding 14 years.
What type of offence is piratical acts?
Piratical acts is an indictable offence. This means that the Crown prosecutor does not have an election in prosecuting an individual, either summarily or by indictment. The Crown prosecutor in short must proceed by indictment in prosecuting a piratical acts charge.
Can you go to jail for piratical acts?
If you are charged with having committed a piratical act under section 75 of the Criminal Code, you can go to jail for this charge. This is an indictable offence carrying a maximum sentence of up to 14 years in jail. If you are convicted of piratical acts, you may potentially go to jail for them.
Articles and Resources
Modern Day Pirates on the High Seas
Piracy is common on the high seas and ranges from theft of ships to theft of cargo of the ships. East Africa, the Gulf of Guinea, and the Indian Ocean are at present, some of the most tense areas for piracy, where many attacks occur. As a global issue, this affects international shipping and has resounding effects on international states and countries. Pirates have an impact on North American shipping and consumers, as costs rise due to lower security, higher insurance and ransom costs.
You can read the rest of the article here.
Canadian Couple Chronicles Pirate Attack Survival Story on Video
While learning how to sail off the coast of Honduras, a Canadian couple was attacked by pirates who speedily approached them in a fishing boat. Once they had reached the Canadian couple, they requested gas for their boat and continued to circle them even after they had stated there was no gas to spare. Finally, they began to threaten the couple and ask for all the money on board. Once received, they left the boat unusable, cutting off the GPS and destroying the water containers. They were later rescued.
You can read the rest of the article here.
Do Today’s Pirates Have Inalienable Human Rights?
While piracy has seen a decrease off African coasts due to international cooperative efforts, certain issues arise that may cause problems in dealing with pirates.
For centuries, pirates have been considered non-citizens, with no rights as such, and piracy, as an international criminal act that any state can prosecute. However, recent developments have confirmed that pirates, under international, still do have inalienable human rights. This has prevented countries from dealing with pirates as they would prosecuted earlier. This means that new rules must be put into place and clarifications on what can be done, be made.
You can read the rest of the article here.
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