A recent Alberta Provincial Court decision by Judge Skinner provided some guidelines for when a trespasser stays on private property, or becomes a trespasser by refusing to leave.
In this Red Deer case a charge of assault was dismissed where a male entered onto a business premises with another woman, stayed to talk to the business owner by permission, then was asked to leave by the abrupt words and actions of the owner. While the situation settled down and further discussion took place without hostility, including talks with that same male, there was a brief and minor physical interaction between the owner and him where physical contact was instigated by the owner, but some response was made by that male.
Judge Skinner found the male not guilty of the alleged assault and spoke to the issue of someone being on private property after being asked to leave. He stated that the person who is a trespasser, or whose permission to remain on property has been revoked and thereby becomes a trespasser, must have sufficient warning to vacate that property, and also sufficient time to leave that same property.
In finding that those criteria had not been met in this case, he dismissed the charge.
This finding, and the reasoning of the Judge, is notable in cases where farmers or acreage owners find unwanted trespassers on their land and want them to leave. Adequate notice must first be given, then adequate time for the trespasser to leave as requested. If the trespasser does not so act, they may be subject to criminal charges. Somewhat the same criteria should apply in cases where an assault is alleged, but inadequate opportunity is given for that person to correct the alleged infraction.
This case is notable in view of the spate of rural crimes, and the desire for property owners to protect themselves and their property. Judge Skinner's Decision provides some guidance as to how steps should be taken to get trespassers off that property.
Jim MacSween is a Partner with Rowanoak Law Office LLP.