Civil Contempt Sentencing in Ontario: Aggravating and Mitigating factors

You have chased a party who has disrespect for court orders. The long arm of the law has finally caught up with this party. Your client’s interests have been prejudiced and a finding of contempt has been made. You are getting ready to make submissions at a Civil Contempt hearing for appropriate sanctions.

Or, from another perspective,

You have been found in contempt of court. You have to attend court now to determine what sanctions will be imposed on you.

In either of the above scenarios, the Court will want submissions on any Aggravating or Mitigating factors that may impact upon the final sanctions to be imposed.

The following are some examples of Aggravating and Mitigating factors found by Ontario Courts. The list is not exhaustive:

Aggravating Factors

@ a deliberate course of conduct over a lengthy period of time;

@ Numerous breaches of court orders;

@ Repeated acts of contempt;

@ Benefiting financially from the contempt;

@ Showing disrespect for the court including for ex. lying to the court, offering an insincere
apology and giving only the appearance of complying with orders.

(See Devathasan v. Ablacksingh 2018 ONSC 7557, at para. 28)

Mitigating Factors

* No evidence of previous defiance of any court order;

* First conviction of contempt;

* Purging or attempting to purge the contempt;

* A sincere apology or showing of remorse to the court;

* Admitting the breach or breaches;

* Medical conditions may be mitigating but not if they can be accommodated in prison (ex.
if contemnor can receive medication in prison)

* The existence of separate sanctions for the same factual circumstances such as a fine from the
Ontario Court of Justice;

* There are dependents who rely on the contemnor;

* Efforts to mitigate damages on other parties.

( See Devathasan at para.24).

Civil Court orders must be respected. Failure to respect and abide by the Court orders in letter and spirit can bring you back before the court fighting to avoid further court orders , ex restraining orders, fines, in serious cases, jail time, and to comply with any other order the Justice considers necessary.*

William Poulos, Barrister

* This blog is not a substitute for legal advice. Should you require legal advice, a lawyer should be consulted on the specific circumstances of your case.

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