Incest (Offence)

From Criminal Law Notebook
This page was last substantively updated or reviewed January 2021. (Rev. # 92523)

s. 155 of the Crim. Code
Election / Plea
Crown Election Indictment
Jurisdiction Prov. Court

Sup. Court w/ Jury (*)
Sup. Court w/ Judge-alone (*)

* Must be indictable. Preliminary inquiry also available.
Indictable Dispositions
Avail. Disp. Discharge (730)

Suspended Sentence (731(1)(a))*
Fine (734)*
Fine + Probation (731(1)(b))*
Jail (718.3, 787)
Jail + Probation (731(1)(b))
Jail + Fine (734)
Conditional Sentence (742.1)

(* varies)
Minimum 5 years incarceration (if under 16 yrs)
Maximum 14 years incarceration
Offence Elements
Sentence Digests


Offences relating to incest are found in Part V of the Criminal Code relating to "Sexual Offences, Public Morals and Disorderly Conduct".

Crown Election Defence Election
s. 536(2)
Preliminary Inquiry
s. 155 [incest] Indictable Offence(s) (14 years max)

Offences under s. 155 [incest] are straight indictable. There is a Defence election of Court under s. 536(2).

Offence(s) Appearance Notice
by Peace Officer

s. 497
by Judge or Justice

s. 508(1), 512(1), or 788
Release by
Peace Officer
on Undertaking

s. 498, 499, and 501
Release By
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. 155 [incest]

When charged under s. 155 [incest], the accused can be given a judicial summons without arrest. 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 weapon, being 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)).

And, regardless of Crown election, if the offence alleged was one:

  • where the offence was an allegation of violence against an "intimate partner" and the accused had been previously convicted of an offence of violence against an "intimate partner" (s. 515(6)(b.1));
  • where the offence alleged is a breach under s. 145(2) to (5) while (s. 515(6)(c));
  • where the offence committed (or conspired to commit) was an offence under s. 5 to 7 of the CDSA that is punishable by life imprisonment (s. 515(6)(d));
Fingerprints and Photos

A peace officer who charges a person under s. 155 [incest] 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

Section s. 155 [incest] offences permit a judge to order a discretionary publication ban for sexual offences under s. 486.4 that protects "information that could identify the victim or a witness". Where the witness is under the age of 18 or if in relation to a victim, the order is mandatory under s. 486.4(2).

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
Offence(s) Wiretap

s. 183
Dangerous Offender
Designated Offence

s. 752
Serious Personal
Injury Offence

s. 752
AG Consent Required Serious Criminality
s. 36 IRPA
s. 155 [incest] (Primary)

Section s. 155 [incest] offences are "primary designated offences" under s. 752 for a Dangerous Offender Order. The offender will be deemed a "substantial risk" for a Long-Term Offender Order under s. 753.1.

Offences under s. 155 [incest] are designated "serious personal injury" offences under s. 752(a) only if it has a maximum penalty of 10 years incarceration or more and involves "use or attempted use of violence against another person" or "conduct endangering or likely to endanger the life or safety of another person or inflicting or likely to inflict severe psychological damage on another person".

See below in Ancillary Sentencing Orders for details on designations relating to sentencing orders.

Offence Wording


155 (1) Every one commits incest who, knowing that another person is by blood relationship his or her parent, child, brother, sister, grandparent or grandchild, as the case may be, has sexual intercourse with that person.


(2) Everyone who commits incest is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 14 years and, if the other person is under the age of 16 years, to a minimum punishment of imprisonment for a term of five years.


(3) No accused shall be determined by a court to be guilty of an offence under this section if the accused was under restraint, duress or fear of the person with whom the accused had the sexual intercourse at the time the sexual intercourse occurred.

[omitted (4)]
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 155; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 21; 2012, c. 1, s. 14.


Note up: 155(1), (2) and (3)

Draft Form of Charges

See also: 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
155(1) incest "..., did, knowing that [name1] was by blood relationship his or her parent, child, brother, sister, grandparent or grandchild, as the case may be, has sexual intercourse with that person, to wit: [conduct], and did thereby commit incest contrary to section 155(1) of the Criminal Code."

Proof of the Offence

Proving incest under s. 155 should include:

  1. identity of accused as culprit
  2. date and time of the incident
  3. jurisdiction (incl. region and province)
  4. the culprit has "sexual intercourse" with a person;
  5. the culprit was aware that the person "is by blood relationship his or her parent, child, brother, sister, grandparent or grandchild"

Interpretation of the Offence

Purpose of the Offence

The primary intent of parliament in creating this offence was to "prevent genetic mutations that can result from inbreeding."[1]

A secondary purpose for the creation of the offence is the "protection of vulnerable members of the family."[2]

"Brother" and "sister"

[omitted (1), (2) and (3)]

Definition of “brother” and “sister”

(4) In this section, “brother” and “sister”, respectively, include half-brother and half-sister.

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 155; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 21; 2012, c. 1, s. 14.


Note up: 155(4)

  1. R v KH, 2015 ONSC 7760 (CanLII), per Barnes J
  2. KH, ibid. ("The defence argument falls apart when considered in the context of the second legislative intent, which is the protection of vulnerable members of the family")

Sexual Intercourse

Under s. 4(5), "sexual intercourse is complete on penetration to even the slightest degree, notwithstanding that seed is not emitted."[1] "Sexual intercourse" in this context is not limited to vagina intercourse and can include anal intercourse as well.[2]


Modification of Rules of Evidence

For offences under this section (s. 155):

Limitations on Admissibility of Evidence

For offences under this section (s. 155):

  • prior sexual history of the complainant "is not admissible to support an inference reason of the sexual nature of that activity, the more likely to have consented to the sexual activity that forms the subject-matter of the charge; or... is less worthy of belief.": see Evidence of complainant’s sexual activity under s. 276.
  • any "evidence of sexual reputation, whether general or specific, is not admissible for the purpose of challenging or supporting the credibility of the complainant.": See reputation evidence under s. 277.
Holdback of Disclosure

For offences under this section (s. 155), s. 278.2 prevents the Crown from disclosing any records attracting a "reasonable expectation of privacy" that relate "to a complainant or a witness" unless applied for through the process described in s. 278.3 to 278.91: see Production of Records for Sexual Offences. Should the privacy-holder agree to waive their privacy rights, the protected materials may be disclosed.

Participation of Third Parties

See also: Role of the Victim and Third Parties and Testimonial Aids for Young, Disabled or Vulnerable Witnesses
Complainant Privacy Rights in Sexual Offences

A complainant has a right to be notified of any party seeking to admit any evidence of sexual activity other than the activity making up the alleged offence.

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
Offence(s) Victim Notice
of Agreement
s. 606(4.1)
Victim Queried
for Interest in Agreement
s. 606(4.2)
[5+ years]
Victim Notice
for Restitution
s. 737.1
Victim Notice
of Impact Statement
s. 722(2)
s. 155 [incest]

For serious personal injury offences or murder, s. 606(4.1) requires that after accepting a guilty plea, the judge must inquire whether "any of the victims had advised the prosecutor of their desire to be informed if such an agreement were entered into, and, if so, whether reasonable steps were taken to inform that victim of the agreement". Failing to take reasonable steps at guilty plea requires the prosecutor to "as soon as feasible, take reasonable steps to inform the victim of the agreement and the acceptance of the plea" (s. 606(4.3)).

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

See also: Purpose and Principles of Sentencing, Sentencing Factors Relating to the Offender, and Sentencing Factors Relating to the Offence
For general principles on sentence for sexual offences, see Sexual Offences
Maximum Penalties
Offence(s) Crown
Maximum Penalty
s. 155 [incest] N/A 14 years incarceration

Offences under s. 155 [incest] are straight indictable. The maximum penalty is 14 years incarceration.

Minimum Penalties
Offence(s) Crown
Minimum Penalty
First Offence
Minimum Penalty
Subsequent Offence
s. 155 [incest]
Victim Under 16 years
N/A 5 years incarceration Same

If the other person is under the age of 16 years, the minimum penalty is 5 years incarceration.

Available Dispositions
Offence(s) Crown
s. 730

s. 731(1)(a)

s. 731(1)(b)
s. 718.3, 787
Custody and
s. 731(1)(b)
Custody and
s. 734
s. 742.1
s. 155 [incest] N/A
s. 155 [incest]
Victim Under Age of 16

If convicted under s. 155 [incest] a discharge is not available under s. 730(1) as it is "an offence for which a minimum punishment is prescribed by law or an offence punishable by imprisonment for fourteen years or for life".

Offences under s. 155 [incest] are ineligible for a conditional sentence order under s. 742.1(c), when prosecuted by indictment, as the maximum period of incarceration is 14 years or life.

Offences under s. 155 [when victim under the age of 16] have mandatory minimums. There are no discharges, suspended sentences, stand-alone fines, or conditional sentences available.

Consecutive Sentences

Under s. 718.3(7), where the judge sentences an accused at the same time for "more than one sexual offence committed against a child", a sentence must be consecutive where:

  • one of the sexual offences against that child is an offence relating to child pornography under s. 163.1. (see s. 718.3(7)(a)); or
  • each of the sexual offences against a child, other than a child pornography offence, related to a different child. (see s. 718.3(7)(a))

[note: this only applies for offences occurring after enactment of Tougher Penalties for Child Predators Act on July 16, 2015]


Section 718.01 requires sentencing judges to "give primary consideration to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence" when conduct "involved the abuse of a person under the age of eighteen years". Where the evidence shows that the offender, "in committing the offence, abused a person under the age of eighteen years,... shall be deemed to be an aggravating circumstances" under s. 718.2(a)(ii.1). Where the offender is in a "position of trust or authority" in relation to the victim, it will also be aggravating under s. 718.2(a)(iii).


see also: Incest (Sentencing Cases)

Ancillary Sentencing Orders

See also: Ancillary Orders
Offence-specific Orders
Order Conviction Description
DNA Orders s. 155 [incest]
SOIRA Orders s. 155 [incest]
  • On conviction under s. 155, a "primary offence" listed as under s. 490.011(1)(a), a SOIRA Order is presumed mandatory unless "there would be no connection between making the order and the purpose of helping police services prevent or investigate crimes of a sexual nature by requiring [registration]" or "the impact of the order on the person, including on their privacy or liberty, would be grossly disproportionate to the public interest in protecting society through the effective prevention or investigation of crimes of a sexual nature, to be achieved by [registration]".
      • If the offender was previously convicted of a "primary offence" the duration is life (s. 490.012(2))
      • Otherwise, the duration is 20 years as the offence has "maximum term of imprisonment for the offence is 10 or 14 years" (s. 490.013(2)(b))).
      • There is an option for early termination under s. 490.015 available after 10 years (if 20 year order) or 20 years (if life order).

Note that by function of s. 490.011(2) of the Code, SOIRA orders are not available when sentencing under the Youth Criminal Justice Act

Section 161 Orders s. 155 [incest]
  • If convicted under s. 155, the judge may make discretionary 161 Order.
Firearms Prohibition Orders s. 155 [incest]
  • Where there is a conviction under s. 155 for an offence not otherwise referred to in s. 109, where "violence against a person was used, threatened or attempted" or "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", a discretionary prohibition order of any of these items is permitted under s. 110 regardless of Crown election where "it is desirable, in the interests of the safety of the person or of any other person".
      • Duration: The Order is for no more than 10 years starting at release from custody or at sentencing where custody is not ordered. If there is a prior conviction for an offence eligible for a s. 109 Order, the duration must be life. If violence is "used, threatened or attempted against" their past or present intimate partner, a child or parent of the said partner, or a person who resides with the said partner or the offender, the duration can be up to life in duration.
      • If the judge declines to make an Order or not order all the possible terms, "the court shall include in the record a statement of the court's reasons for not doing so." (s. 110(3))
Delayed Parole Order s. 155 [incest]
  • Periods of imprisonment of 2 years or more for convictions under s. 155 are eligible for delayed parole order under s. 743.6(1) requiring the offender to serve at least "one half of the sentence or ten years, whichever is less", "where denunciation of the offence or the objective of specific or general deterrence so requires".
General Sentencing Orders
Order Conviction Description
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 Conviction Description
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. 155 [incest] 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. 155 [incest] (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.


See also: List of Criminal Code Amendments and Table of Concordance (Criminal Code)

See Also