|s. 163, 165, 167 and 168 of the Crim. Code|
|Election / Plea|
summary proceedings must initiate within 12 months of the offence (786(2))
Sup. Court w/ Jury (*)
|Avail. Disp.||Discharge (730)|
Conditional Sentence (742.1)
|Maximum||2 years less a day jail and/or a $5,000 fine (from Sept 19, 2019)|
|Avail. Disp.||same as summary|
|Maximum||2 years incarceration|
Offences relating to obscenity are found in Part V of the Criminal Code relating to "Sexual Offences, Public Morals and Disorderly Conduct".
|Crown Election||Defence Election
|s. 163 [obscenity]||Hybrid Offence(s)||(* only if Crown proceeds by Indictment)||(under 14 years max)|
Offences under s. 163 [obscenity] are hybrid with a Crown election. If prosecuted by indictment, there is a Defence election of Court under s. 536(2) to trial by provincial court, superior court judge-alone or superior court judge-and-jury.
by Peace Officer
by Judge or Justice
s. 508(1), 512(1), or 788
s. 498, 499, and 501
a Judge or Justice
on a Release Order
s. 515 to 519
|Direct to Attend |
for Fingerprints, etc.
Identification of Criminals Act
s. 2 ID Crim. Act
|s. 163 [obscenity]|
When charged under s. 163 [obscenity] , the accused can be given an appearance notice without arrest under s. 497 or a summons. If arrested, he can be released by the arresting officer under s. 498 or 499 on an undertaking with or without conditions. He can also be released by a justice under s. 515.
- Reverse Onus Bail
If police decide to bring the accused before a Justice pursuant to s. 503, there will be a presumption against bail (i.e. a reverse onus) if the offence, prosecuted by indictment, was committed:
- while at large under s. 515 [bail release], 679 or 680 [release pending appeal or review of appeal] (s. 515(6)(a)(i));
- "for the benefit of, at the direction of, or in association" with a criminal organization (s. 515(6)(a)(ii));
- where the offence involved a firearm, cross-bow, prohibited weapon restricted weapon, prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or explosive substance, while the accused was subject to a prohibition order preventing possession of these items (s. 515(6)(a)(viii)); or
- where the accused is not "ordinarily a resident in Canada" (s. 515(6)(b)).
- Fingerprints and Photos
A peace officer who charges a person under s. 163 [obscenity] of the Code can require that person to attend for the taking of fingerprints, photographs or other similar recordings that are used to identify them under the Identification of Criminals Act.
- Publication Bans
For all criminal or regulatory prosecutions, there is a discretionary general publication ban available on application of the Crown, victim or witness to prohibit the publishing of "any information that could identify the victim or witness" under s. 486.5(1) where it is "necessary" for the "proper administration of justice". Other available publication bans include prohibitions for publishing evidence or other information arising from a bail hearing (s. 517), preliminary inquiry (s. 539) or jury trial (s. 648). There is a mandatory publication ban in all youth prosecutions on information tending to identify young accused under s. 110 of the YCJA or young victims under s. 111 of the YCJA.
- Offence Designations
|AG Consent Required||Serious Criminality|
s. 36 IRPA
Offences under s. 163(1)(a) are designated offences eligible for wiretap under s. 183.
See below in Ancillary Sentencing Orders for details on designations relating to sentencing orders.
Draft Form of Charges
|"THAT [accused full name] stands charged that, between the <DATE> day of <MONTH>, <YEAR> and <DATE> day of <MONTH>, <YEAR>***, at or near <COMMUNITY/TOWN/CITY>, <PROVINCE>, he [or she]..." OR|
|"THAT [accused full name] stands charged that, on or about the <DATE> day of <MONTH>, <YEAR>, at or near <COMMUNITY/TOWN/CITY>, <PROVINCE>, he [or she]..." OR|
|"AND FURTHER at the same time and place aforesaid, he [or she]..."|
|Code Section||Subject of Offence||Draft Wording|
|making, distributing, and possessing obscene thing||163(1)||"... did make, print, publish, distribute, circulate or had in their possession for the purpose of publication or distribution or circulation any obscene written matter, picture, model, phonograph record or any other obscene thing, to wit: [particulars],, contrary to section 163(1) of the Criminal Code."|
|sell or make public written, audio and image of obscene thing||163(2)(a)||"... knowingly, without lawful justification or excuse, sell, expose to public view or had in their possession for that purpose any obscene written matter, picture, model, phonograph record or any other obscene thing, to wit: [particulars],, contrary to section 163(2)(a) of the Criminal Code."|
|publicly exhibit a show||163(2)(b)||"... knowingly, without lawful justification or excuse publicly exhibit a disgusting object or an indecent show, to wit: [particulars], contrary to section 163(2)(b) of the Criminal Code."|
Proof of the Offence
Proving obscene publishing under s. 162(1)(a) should include:
Proving crime comic under s. 162(1)(b) should include:
Proving selling to public under s. 162(2)(a) should include:
Proving Public exhibition under s. 162(2)(b) should include:
Proving distributing means of abortions under s. 162(2)(c) should include:
Proving distributing mean of restoring sexual virility under s. 162(2)(d) should include:
"Circulation" must involve "some public element" and cannot include showing in one's home.
"Public view" does not include private showings.
"Obscene" is defined under s. 163(8) as:
The combination of sex and violence "will almost always constitute the undue exploitation of sex".
"Explicit sex" that is "degrading or dehumanizing may be undue if the risk of harm is substantial."
The character of the target audience of the materials is not a relevant consideration as to whether the materials are obscene.
- Public Good
The "public good" refers to the "necessary or advantageous to religion or morality to the administration of justice, the pursuit of science, literature or art, or other objects of general interest."
Section 163(6), now repealed, violates s. 7 of the Charter and is no force or effect.
- R v Rioux, 1969 CanLII 83 (CSC),  SCR 599, per Hall J
- Rioux, ibid.
R v Butler, 1992 CanLII 124 (SCC),  1 SCR 452, per Sopinka J
- Butler, ibid.
R v Germain, 1985 CanLII 54 (SCC),  2 SCR 241, per Dickson CJ and Lamer J
- R v American News Company Limited, 1957 CanLII 119 (ON CA), 118 CCC 152, per Laidlaw JA
- R v Metro News Ltd, 1986 CanLII 148 (ON CA), 29 CCC (3d) 35, per Martin JA
Participation of Third Parties
- Testimonial Aids
Certain persons who testify are entitled to make application for the use of testimonial aids: Exclusion of Public (s. 486), Use of a Testimonial Screen (s. 486), Access to Support Person While Testifying (s. 486.1), Close Proximity Video-link Testimony (s. 486.2), Self-Represented Cross-Examination Prohibition Order (s. 486.3), and Witness Security Order (s. 486.7).
A witness, victim or complainant may also request publication bans (s. 486.4, 486.5) and/or a Witness Identity Non-disclosure Order (s. 486.31). See also, Publication Bans, above.
- On Finding of Guilt
s. 606(4.1) [SPIO]
for Interest in Agreement
s. 606(4.2) [5+ years]
|Victim Notice |
of Impact Statement
|s. 163 [obscenity]|
Under s. 738, a judge must inquire from the Crown before sentencing whether "reasonable steps have been taken to provide the victims with an opportunity to indicate whether they are seeking restitution for their losses and damages".
Under s. 722(2), the judge must inquire "[a]s soon as feasible" before sentencing with the Crown "if reasonable steps have been taken to provide the victim with an opportunity to prepare" a victim impact statement. This will include any person "who has suffered, or is alleged to have suffered, physical or emotional harm, property damage or economic loss" as a result of the offence. Individuals representing a community impacted by the crime may file a statement under s. 722.2.
Sentencing Principles and Ranges
- For general principles on sentence for sexual offences, see Sexual Offences
- Maximum Penalties
|s. 163 [obscenity]||summary election||2 years less a day jail and/or a $5,000 fine (from Sept 19, 2019)|
|s. 163 [obscenity]||indictable election||2 years incarceration|
Offences under s. 163 [obscenity], 167 [immoral theatrical performance] or 168 [mailing obscene matter] are hybrid. If prosecuted by indictment, the maximum penalty is 2 years incarceration. If prosecuted by summary conviction, the maximum penalty is 2 years less a day jail and/or a $5,000 fine (from Sept 19, 2019).
- Minimum Penalties
These offences have no mandatory minimum penalties.
- Available Dispositions
s. 718.3, 787
|s. 163 [obscenity],
s. 167 [immoral theatrical performance] or
s. 168 [mailing obscene matter]
All dispositions are available.The judge may order a discharge (s. 730), suspended sentence (s. 731(1)(a)), fine (s. 731(1)(b)), custody (s. 718.3, 787), custody with probation (s. 731(1)(b)), custody with a fine (s. 734), or a conditional sentence (s. 742.1).
- Consecutive Sentences
There are no statutory requirements that the sentences be consecutive.
- see also: Obscenity (Sentencing Cases)
Ancillary Sentencing Orders
- Offence-specific Orders
- General Sentencing Orders
|Non-communication order while offender in custody (s. 743.21)||any||The judge has the discretion to order that the offender be prohibited "from communicating...with any victim, witness or other person" while in custody except where the judge "considers [it] necessary" to communicate with them.|
|Restitution Orders (s. 738)||any||A discretionary Order is available for things such as the replacement value of the property; the pecuniary damages incurred from harm, expenses fleeing a domestic partner; or certain expenses arising from the commission of an offence under s.402.2 or 403.|
|Victim Fine Surcharge (s. 737)||any||A discretionary surcharge under s. 737 of 30% of any fine order imposed, $100 per summary conviction or $200 per indictable conviction. If the offence occurs on or after October 23, 2013, the order has smaller minimum amounts (15%, $50, or $100).|
- General Forfeiture Orders
|Forfeiture of Proceeds of Crime (s. 462.37(1) or (2.01))||any||Where there is a finding of guilt for an indictable offence under the Code or the CDSA in which property is "proceeds of crime" and offence was "committed in relation to that property", the property shall be forfeited to His Majesty the King on application of the Crown. NB: does not apply to summary offences.|
|Fine in Lieu of Forfeiture (s. 462.37(3))||any||Where a Court is satisfied an order for the forfeiture of proceeds of crime under s. 462.37(1) or (2.01) can be made, but that property cannot be "made subject to an order", then the Court "may" order a fine in "an amount equal to the value of the property". Failure to pay the fine will result in a default judgement imposing a period of incarceration.|
|Forfeiture of Weapons or Firearms (s. 491)||any||Where there is finding of guilt for an offence where a "weapon, an imitation firearm, a prohibited device, any ammunition, any prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance was used in the commission of [the] offence and that thing has been seized and detained", or "that a person has committed an offence that involves, or the subject-matter of which is, a firearm, a cross-bow, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance has been seized and detained, that the item be an enumerated weapon or related item be connected to the offence", then there will be a mandatory forfeiture order. However, under s. 491(2), if the lawful owner "was not a party to the offence" and the judge has "no reasonable grounds to believe that the thing would or might be used in the commission of an offence", then it should be returned to the lawful owner.|
|Forfeiture of Offence-related Property (s. 490.1)||any||Where there is a finding of guilt for an indictable offence, "any property is offence-related property" where (a) by means or in respect of which an indictable offence under this Act or the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act is committed, (b) that is used in any manner in connection with the commission of such an offence, or (c) that is intended to be used for committing such an offence". Such property is to be forfeited to Her Majesty in right of the province. NB: does not apply to summary offences.|
Record Suspensions and Pardons
Convictions under s. 163 [obscenity] are eligible for record suspensions pursuant to s. 3 and 4 of the Criminal Records Act after 5 years after the expiration of sentence for summary conviction offences and 10 years after the expiration of sentence for all other offences. The offender may not have the record suspended where the offender was (1) convicted of 3 or more offences with a maximum penalty of life, and (2) for each 3 offences he "was sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more".
- Victim Under 18 Years
Convictions under s. 163(1)(a) or 163(2)(a) (in either offence where victim is under the age of 18) are ineligible for record suspensions pursuant to s. 4 of the Criminal Records Act. An exception can be made under s. 4(3) for those offences where there was no relationship of “trust”, “authority” or “dependency”; no violence, threats or coercion; and age difference between victim and offender is less than 5 years.
Prior to December 13, 2018, the offence read as follows:
- Related Offences