Although the charge is relatively rare, there are a variety of situations that may lead police to bring this charge against individuals who are unaccustomed to finding themselves in criminal court. Often individuals involved in civil disputes such as employment lawsuits or commercial litigation unexpectedly find themselves being charged with mischief to data.
In the employment context, employers may search the computer of former employees after they leave or are dismissed. If an employee was dismissed for cause an employer could be both looking for, and expecting to find, evidence that an employee has altered or deleted the information contained in a company computer. If employers do conclude that certain information on a computer has been altered or destroyed they may decide to pursue criminal charges.
Once contacted, police investigators often rely on an employer’s investigation in order to satisfy themselves that they have the necessary reasonable and probable grounds to lay charges. Because of the reliance by police on the employer’s version of events, those charged are often at the mercy of the facts as determined by their former employer. Bringing criminal charges can also be used in this way by employers to gain an advantage in civil proceedings with an employee.
Because it is a criminal charge, mischief to data must be proven by the Crown prosecutor beyond a reasonable doubt. An individual accused of mischief to data is also entitled to the procedural protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and No Obligationdoms. If one is charged with a criminal offence while in an civil employment law dispute it can complicate both sets of proceedings. It is important to obtain legal advice regarding the impact of each dispute upon the other and the different approaches necessary to properly defend and litigate each proceeding.
Based in Kanata, the law firm of Connolly Nichols Allan & Snelling provides corporate & commercial, real estate, family, criminal and civil litigation services (including employment, personal injury, and insurance law) in Ottawa and the surrounding area.