PLEA would like to thank the Victims Services Branch of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice and Attorney General and the Executive Committee of the Saskatchewan Association of Police Affiliated Victim Services for their assistance in developing the original publication.
Rights of Victims
Victims of crimes have certain rights under Saskatchewan and Canadian law.
- Victims of crime should be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect.
- All reasonable measures should be taken to minimize inconvenience to victims.
- The needs, concerns and diversity, including cultural diversity, of victims should be considered in the development and delivery of programs and services and in related education and training.
Victims have the right to information about:
- The criminal justice system, the role of victims in it and opportunities to participate in criminal justice processes.
- Services and programs available to them as a victim.
- Financial compensation available to victims.
- Where and when any proceedings regarding the crime will be held.
- The progress of the case and its outcome.
- The status of the offender in the correctional system, including reviews concerning releases and the timing and conditions of the release if granted.
- Options to raise their concerns when they believe their rights have not been respected, including information about filing a complaint.
Victims have the right to:
- Have their safety and security considered at all stages of the process.
- Have reasonable, appropriate and necessary measures taken to protect them from intimidation and retaliation.
Victims have the right to:
- Have their privacy considered and respected to the greatest extent possible.
- Request that their identity be protected if they are a victim of the offence or a witness in proceedings relating to the offence.
Victims have the right to:
- State their views about decisions that affect their rights and have those views considered.
- Present a Victim Impact Statement and have it considered.
- Ask for testimonial aids when appearing as a witness.
Victims have the right to:
- Have the court consider making a restitution order against the offender.
- Have a restitution order entered as a civil court judgment that can be enforced.
Who are Crime Victims?
A victim of crime is anyone who is harmed by a crime. This includes a wide range of people. A victim could be someone whose bike was stolen from outside a store, someone who was injured by a drunk driver or someone who has been assaulted. The harm can be physical, emotional or financial.
You can be a victim of crime even if the incident is never reported to the police, or if the incident is reported but no one is ever charged or convicted of the crime. However, to participate in most government programs and services for victims, you must report the crime to the police.
If a victim cannot act for themselves, a family member will usually have the right to have input, be informed and apply for compensation. This could happen, for example, when the victim is a child or seriously injured. This will also be the case where the victim is deceased.
Even when a victim can act for themselves, those close to the victim can be considered secondary victims. When someone close to you is harmed, it can affect not just their life but your life as well.
A crime victim and those close to a victim will have many questions and concerns. Some crimes can change people's lives forever and have devastating and tragic consequences. Other crimes may have less serious consequences, but can still have a significant impact on the victim and those close to them.
This booklet is intended to assist people who have been harmed by a crime. Victims have certain rights under the law. These rights are found in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights and The Victims of Crime Act. They are summarized at the start of this booklet and highlighted throughout. If a victim feels these principles are not being followed they can make a complaint. Information about where to make complaints can be found at the end of the booklet.
As well as having certain rights under the law, victims can receive help from a number of different programs and agencies. Information about how to access the programs and services described in this booklet can be found in the section entitled Where to Go For Help.
Perhaps the only real answer to the question of "why me" is that there is no answer. When you are a victim of a crime you are harmed by someone else's actions, not because of something you did or did not do. Nevertheless, feelings of guilt and shame are common reactions to having been a victim. Victims may be especially vulnerable to feeling that they are to blame if they were victimized while engaging in risky activity. Children who are victimized while breaking a rule may worry that they are to blame. Many crimes are random. All victims need to know that it is not their fault - they are victims.
Being the victim of a crime can have a wide range of consequences. A crime can result in physical injuries, including death. A victim may need to see a doctor and may require immediate and sometimes ongoing treatment. A victim may need bed rest. A victim may not be able to carry out day-to-day activities for days, weeks, months or even longer. Some victims may never completely recover from their injuries.
While physical injury may be an obvious consequence of being a crime victim, many victims will also have emotional injuries that can be equally devastating. A victim may feel angry, confused or fearful and may no longer feel safe doing things that they have always done.
A crime can also result in financial losses for victims. Property may be damaged, lost or stolen. Time off work may be needed to recover from injuries. Even if there are no injuries, time off may still be needed to replace items and do things like make insurance claims or testify in court. A 2004 Canadian study estimated that the cost of pain and suffering to victims of crime, from physical and emotional harm, was close to 36 billion dollars.
First Things First
Victims have the right to have their safety considered by people dealing with their case and the right to be protected as much as possible from intimidation and retaliation.
The first concern when anyone has been victimized is safety. What you need to be safe will depend on the situation. Sometimes this means calling the police, leaving the house or doing whatever you need to do to stop the victimization. It may also involve doing things like changing your locks, cancelling your credit cards or changing your phone number.
Even once you are out of immediate danger you may still have safety concerns. Perhaps you are afraid that the person who harmed you will victimize you again. Perhaps the person who harmed you threatened further harm to you or your family if you go to the police or testify in court. If you continue to fear for your safety you should let the police know. If the concerns arise when you are a witness, you can talk to the Crown Prosecutor about them.
Harassment, Intimidation & Threats
Anyone who makes you afraid for your safety or the safety of someone you know may be committing a criminal offence if they are...
- repeatedly following you (or someone you know)
- repeatedly visiting, calling or writing
- watching your home or workplace
- threatening you or someone in your family
A person may be committing a criminal offence if they try to force you to do something or prevent you from doing something by...
- using violence against you, your family or property
- threatening you or your family with violence or damage to your property
- following you
- taking your things
- continually or aggressively watching your home or place of work
As well, if anyone threatens to hurt you, damage your property or harm your animals, they may be committing a criminal offence.
If any of these things are happening to you, call the police.
If you have a reasonable fear that someone is going to harm you, your children or your property, you can ask the court for a peace bond. A peace bond is a court order that requires another person to "keep the peace" for a certain amount of time and obey any other conditions ordered, such as an order that the person not contact you or come near your home, workplace or family. A peace bond does not cost anything, and you do not need a lawyer to get one.
Depending on where you live, the police or Crown Prosecutor can help you through this process. The person you fear will be given a summons or will be arrested and released on conditions with a date to appear in court. When they appear in court, the person you fear may agree to the conditions and enter into a peace bond, which can be in place for up to one year.
If the person you fear refuses to enter into a peace bond, a hearing date will be set and you may be required to attend to explain your fears to the court. A Crown Prosecutor will help explain the situation to the judge. The judge will hear testimony from both sides to decide whether to order the peace bond. The Crown Prosecutor can tell you about support services that are available to assist victims through this process.
A peace bond is not a criminal conviction. As long as the conditions of the peace bond are met, the person will not be charged with a criminal offence. However, if the conditions are broken, the person can be charged with a criminal offence. An application for a peace bond can be made alone or in addition to a criminal investigation.
Victims have the right to information about services and programs available to them.
After you have taken immediate steps to ensure your safety, you will want to consider how you can deal with the harm done to you. What this means will be different for everyone. Some concerns may require immediate attention. You may need medical attention. You may need to repair or replace possessions.
Other concerns may be just as important but may be dealt with later. You may want to know if you can get financial compensation for the harm you have suffered. You may want information about some common reactions of victims. You may need someone to talk to about your experience and someone to provide support along the way.
Often being a victim means you will be involved in the criminal justice system. For some victims this is an important part of dealing with the harm. In some cases the victim may be able to decide whether or not to involve the criminal justice system. In other cases the victim may have no choice but to be involved.
Many victims have questions about the criminal justice system and their role in it. You may want to know how to report the incident to the police and what will happen if you do call the police. You may want to know what kind of information about the investigation you can access and how to do this. You may want to know if a person charged will be released on bail and how your interests as a victim are considered. You may want to be able to tell the sentencing court how the crime has affected you. You may want information about where a person convicted of the crime will be serving a jail sentence and when and how that person may be released into the community.
Taking Care of Yourself
Every victim of crime will react differently to their situation but there are certain phases of recovery and some common reactions that it may be helpful to know about.
Moving From Victim to Survivor
To understand what victims go through, it can be helpful to see victimization and recovery as a process. Although every crime victim is unique, certain stages can be identified. Victims are people and, just like other people, they have certain strengths, weaknesses, support systems, financial pressures and the like. A crime victim may have experienced trauma in the past, either from another crime or other life event, and will have reacted in their own way to that trauma.
When they become a target of crime, a victim moves from being just a member of the general population to being a "victim." Some victims may initially minimize the crime and its impact. These victims may experience a delayed reaction to the crime that can take place weeks, months, or even years later.
With information and support, victims can start to take steps to put their life back together. It is during this initial coping period that victims will likely need the most help from family, friends and professionals.
With time, and often with the help of others, a victim will move on from this phase to a point where being a crime victim is simply part of their life experience. This does not mean that a victim will return to their pre-crime state. However, as victims make sense of what happened and adjust to its effects on their life, being a crime victim no longer defines who they are.
There is no set time frame for victims to go through these phases. Much will depend on the type of crime the victim has experienced. Much will also depend on the victim, their unique history and the kind of help they receive. What is important to remember is that many victims reach a point where they can move on with their lives.
As a victim you may experience a wide range of reactions. Often there are emotional, social and physical reactions. You may also experience changes in your thinking and have disturbing memories. Each victim will react in their own way but all victims of crime experience distress. As a victim of crime you may feel...
- a loss of trust
You may also...
- have trouble controlling your emotions
- suffer from loss of self-esteem or sense of self-worth
- have trouble concentrating
- feel confused
- have flashbacks or intrusive memories about the crime
- find yourself constantly being on the alert
- feel alienated from others
- avoid social situations
Emotions around being a victim may cause nausea, stomach problems, muscle tension and trouble sleeping. Some of these same reactions can also be seen in the victim's family and friends.
What You Can Do
One thing victims can do is inform themselves about things like the common reactions victims have, the criminal justice system and their role in it, as well as the kind of help that is out there for victims. This will help you make informed decisions about what steps you want to take.
It is important to look after yourself and get the support you need. Family and friends can provide companionship, emotional or financial support, or a safe place to live. Talking to someone about your experience and feelings can be very helpful. This could be a family member, a friend, a counsellor, a victim services worker or anyone that you feel comfortable sharing your experience with. Talking can help you make sense of what happened and how you feel.
Often victims will be frightened. You may want to have someone stay with you or you may want to stay with a family member or a friend. You may want information about how to best secure your home and other ways to protect yourself.
While you are recovering from being victimized it is especially important to try to eat, sleep and exercise regularly. It is also a good idea to try and participate in activities that you find enjoyable and ones that relieve stress.
There are some ways of dealing with being a victim of crime that can help victims move on with their life. These ways of coping focus on dealing directly with the incident and the way you have reacted to it. Other ways of dealing with the incident can actually make you feel worse in the long run. These negative ways of coping focus on things other than the incident and your reaction.
For some victims, charges being laid and the matter going to court can help them feel more in control of their life. Some victims find healing in becoming advocates or activists for things like victims' rights.
It is important to know about some things that can help victims cope but it is also important for victims and especially those close to victims to be on the lookout for signs that a victim may not be coping well. In the immediate aftermath of a crime a victim may cope by avoiding the situation. You may stay in bed, not leave the house, not go to work or avoid the location of the crime. Some victims may escape the situation by drinking, using drugs or overusing prescription medications. It is best to stay away from drugs and alcohol during your recovery as these substances only intensify your reactions.
While avoiding challenging situations at first and taking small steps towards dealing with the incident may be helpful, a victim who continues to use avoidance can end up making matters worse. If drugs or alcohol are used to avoid the situation the victim's decision-making and problem-solving skills are impaired and this can also interfere with the healing process. Victims and those close to victims need to watch for signs that professional help is needed. If you feel overwhelmed or if your symptoms do not lessen over time you should see your doctor or a counsellor.
Victims have the right to information about financial compensation available to them.
If you are a victim of a crime involving personal violence, such as assault, robbery or kidnapping, you can apply for compensation for reasonable expenses you have as a result of the crime. Compensation is not available for property damage, pain and suffering or legal fees.
If the victim is a child, a parent or guardian can make the application. If the victim is a dependent adult, their guardian can make the application. If the victim does not have capacity, another person can be allowed to make the application on the victim's behalf. If the victim is deceased, a dependant can make an application for compensation.
To be able to apply for compensation you must have reported the crime to the police. You can apply for compensation if you have reported the crime even if no charges are laid or no one is convicted of the crime. The crime must have occurred in Saskatchewan.
Compensation may be awarded to cover...
- health care expenses not covered by Saskatchewan Health
- ambulance costs
- dental work
- lost earnings
- counselling - including the use of traditional Aboriginal healing methods
- funeral expenses
There are maximum amounts set out for each type of expense. If a victim receives money from other sources, such as an insurance plan or civil lawsuit, that amount may be deducted from any compensation. A formal appeal process is also available in the case of disagreements about compensation decisions.
Applications for compensation should be made as soon as possible. Normally applications will not be accepted after two years have passed since the crime was committed. Victims of sexual assaults, however, have two years from the time the crime was reported to the police to apply. A victim does not have to wait for the result of a police investigation or trial before applying. In fact, since things like counselling funds are intended to assist victims while they are involved in the criminal justice process, it is important to apply before court proceedings have concluded.
Application forms and information is available from local Victim Services programs, the Victims Services Branch in Regina, or online. Your local Police-based Victim Services can help you with the application.
Calling the Police
There are many reasons why it may be a good idea to call the police. You may need protection or help getting your things back. If the person is caught it may prevent somebody else from becoming their next victim. If you want to make an insurance claim or a claim for victim's compensation you will need to report the incident to the police.
There are also some situations where the law requires you to report an incident. For example, in Saskatchewan anyone who has reason to believe that a child is abused or neglected has a legal duty to report it. As well, certain types of vehicle collisions must be reported to the police including when...
- it is a hit and run
- the vehicle needs to be towed
- anyone is injured
- a driver was impaired
- it is an out-of-province vehicle
- it is an unregistered vehicle
Sometimes the decision about involving the police will be out of your hands. For example, someone else may see the crime being committed and call the police. Deciding whether to call the police can be a major decision. Once the police are involved they will make certain choices about what should happen next.
Sometimes victims do not want to involve the police because they are afraid of some kind of retaliation from the person that harmed them. Sometimes victims feel ashamed and want to keep the incident to themselves. If the person who committed the crime is a friend or family member, a victim may not want to get them into trouble or may feel pressured by relatives not to report the crime. It may help to remember that you can get someone else to make the call for you. Some police services may not take third party reports for incidents other than domestic disputes.
If you decide to call the police, the sooner you call the better. This gives the police a better chance of finding and preserving evidence and of catching the person who committed the crime.
When the Police Arrive
Depending on the circumstances, the police may come to the crime scene or you may go to the police station to report the crime. When the police respond to an emergency they will take steps to protect anyone in danger. The police will look for evidence and preserve evidence. Depending on the situation this may mean that you do not have access to the crime scene for a period of time. This may mean that you cannot use property, like a car or your home, for a period of time. If a death is involved it can also mean that the victim's body cannot be removed until all the necessary evidence has been collected. The police may take property into custody, dust for fingerprints or take you for medical attention. In most communities, the police can call Victim Services in to assist you if you wish, or they can tell you how to contact the nearest Victim Services program at a later time.
Giving a Statement
When you report a crime to the police you will normally be asked to give a full statement. A police officer will talk to you and ask you questions about what happened. It is important to tell the police everything you remember about the incident. The police may ask you to write out your statement or they might write the statement up for you to look over. Usually you will be asked to sign the statement. In some cases your statement may be recorded or videotaped. You can ask for a copy of your written statement.
It is important to carefully look over your statement. You may be upset or even in shock right after the crime, so make sure you take the time you need to get your statement right. If the criminal is caught and there is a trial you may be a witness. As a witness you could be cross-examined by the defence about your statement. It is important to note that it is a crime to give a false statement.
Investigating the Crime
Victims have the right to information about the investigation including whether anyone has been charged with a crime.
Once a crime is reported to the police they will start an investigation. The police may need to talk to you again during the investigation. They may ask you to make another statement. You may be asked to identify a suspect or recovered property.
How and when you are given information about an investigation may vary. You should make note of the badge number and contact information for the officer in charge of the investigation, as well as the police file number, so that you can talk to someone if you feel you are not getting the information you need.
The police will tell you what steps they will be taking. You can find out if the investigation is ongoing and if charges are likely. You can ask the police to let you know if they lay charges. Some Victim Services programs can help you access this information. You can ask for the names of the accused after charges are laid. Once the matter goes to court the names of adult accused are public record. The police will not give you information that could interfere with the investigation or affect someone's safety or security. They will also not disclose the names and contact information of other victims or witnesses.
Laying Criminal Charges
Victims have a right to information about the criminal justice system and their role in it.
After the police complete their investigation they may charge someone with the crime. The police can charge someone if there are reasonable grounds for believing the person committed the crime. Sometimes the person may be charged with an offence that is less serious than what you think they did. The police and Crown Prosecutors must decide what a person should be charged with based on the available evidence. Sometimes even after a thorough investigation the police will not have a suspect or they may not have enough evidence to lay a charge.
This does not mean that you were not a victim of a crime. If you are concerned about why someone has not been charged or the type of charge, you can talk to the police - they may be able to help you understand the situation. If you have reported the crime you can access services for victims whether someone is charged or not.
When someone is charged they are formally accused of committing the offence named in the charge. A document called an information is used to charge the person. The person charged will get a copy of the information. When the police charge someone with a crime they may arrest the person. If you have fears for your safety make sure you tell the police as this may help them decide whether to arrest the person. If the person is not arrested they will be given a date and time to appear in court to deal with the charge.
Alternatives to Going to Court
Sometimes an individual will not be charged, or will initially be charged, but will be dealt with outside of court. Dealing with accused persons outside of court gives them an opportunity to take responsibility for their behaviour and to address the harm they caused. Alternatives to Court try to balance the needs of victims, the accused and their communities, and ensure that society is protected.
As a victim you may have concerns about using an out-of-court process to deal with the person accused of harming you. You may also want to know if and how you can be involved in the process. Understanding how these kinds of decisions are made and the process for dealing with an accused outside of court can be helpful. The program dealing with the case, or a Victim Services program, can help you to understand this process and find answers to your questions.
When Alternatives Can be Used
Alternatives to court can only be used if the accused accepts responsibility for the offence and freely agrees to participate. The needs of the accused, the victim and the community will be considered when deciding whether to keep the case out of court.
Alternatives to court cannot be used in cases involving family violence, child sexual abuse or drinking and driving. They also cannot be used in serious cases involving violence to a person (including sexual assault) or the use or threatened use of weapons.
There are many different alternatives. For example, if the victim is willing, the victim and the offender can meet with a trained mediator and try to come to an agreement about what the offender should do to repair the harm. Sometimes there will be a circle meeting with the victim, if they choose to be involved, the accused and members of the community. In this meeting the parties try to work out an agreement that satisfies the victim, meets the needs of the accused and gives community members a role in helping both parties. An accused may also be referred for counselling, education or treatment. An accused may agree to pay a victim back for their financial loss.
Role of the Victim
You will be consulted before a decision is made about using an alternative to court. You will be given information about the alternative being considered and can decide if you want to participate. Involving the victim, if they are willing, is an important part of the process. The process gives victims a chance to tell the accused how the crime affected them and to understand something about the accused's situation. It can also be a way for a victim to receive some form of compensation.
If you do not want to participate, the case may still be dealt with by an alternative to court. In this case a surrogate victim may be used in the meeting or mediation. You can make your wishes known even if you choose not to attend.
Whether you choose to participate or not, you have the right to be told what the outcome was and whether the accused successfully completed the out-of-court alternative. If the accused does not successfully complete the out-of-court alternative the accused can be dealt with through the court system.
Release After Arrest
Police and the courts must take the safety of a victim into account when making decisions about release and conditions for release.
The police often release an arrested person soon after charging them. A court may order the police to keep an accused person in jail until a later date, even until a trial. There must be good reason to keep a person in custody. Only the court can order that the accused stay in jail for longer than 24 hours.
Depending on the situation, there may be a long time between when a person is charged and when the matter is finally resolved in court. If the person does not plead guilty they will appear in court a number of times before a date is set for a hearing. Depending on the complexity of the case, the trial itself can take some time and there may be adjournments.
During this time you may have concerns about your safety if the accused person is not kept in jail. If you do have these concerns, make them known to the police or Crown Prosecutor. A victim's safety will be considered by the police and the courts when deciding whether to release someone and in deciding what, if any, conditions should be put on their release.
It may help to remember that under Canadian law people are presumed to be innocent until they plead guilty or the charges are proven in court. If the person charged is released it does not mean that there is not a good case against the person. In most cases Canadian law presumes that a person should be free while waiting for a trial unless there are extraordinary reasons to keep them in custody.
Release by the Police
Arrest Without a Warrant
If the person is arrested without a warrant and the crime is not murder or another very serious crime the police will release the person, unless it is likely that they...
- are not giving the police their correct name and address
- will not go to court on their court date
- will commit other crimes before their court date
- will try to get rid of evidence of the crime after they are released
- will threaten witnesses who may be giving evidence against them
The police can release a person with a Summons or Appearance Notice that tells the person where and when to appear in court. They can require the accused to sign a Promise to Appear that requires them to appear in court on a certain date and time. The police can also require the accused to pay money or agree to pay money if the accused does not appear in court when they are supposed to.
Arrest With a Warrant
If the person is arrested with a warrant and the crime is not murder or a very serious offence, the police can also release the person. If a person is arrested with a warrant the police can also require them to sign an undertaking with conditions. These conditions can include...
- reporting to the police
- depositing their passport
- remaining in the area
- notifying police of any change in address or employment
- not communicating with certain people (such as a victim) or not going to certain places (such as a victim's residence)
- not drinking or taking drugs
- not possessing any firearms
If the police keep the person in jail and the Crown Prosecutor objects to the person being released there will be a bail hearing before a judge or a Justice of the Peace (JP). A bail hearing is where a judge or JP decides whether to release the person from jail before their next court appearance. This is also called a show cause hearing.
At the bail hearing, the prosecutor and the accused person's lawyer (if they have one) present a summary of the evidence. The judge or JP looks at...
- whether the accused has a past criminal record or other charges against them
- whether they have a steady occupation
- what their family life or community life is like
- information about their character
- how serious the charge is and whether they were violent
The judge or the JP must consider any evidence submitted about the need to ensure the safety or security of any victim or witness. The judge or the JP must release the accused person unless keeping the person in custody is necessary...
- to ensure that the accused will come back to court to answer the charge
- for the safety of a victim, a witness or the general public
- to maintain public confidence in the administration of justice (a court will consider whether the offence was serious, the strength of the prosecution's case, the circumstances of the offence and the potential for a long jail sentence)
If the judge or JP decides to release the accused person, there may be conditions attached. These might include requiring the accused to...
- report to authorities
- remain in the jurisdiction
- not communicate in any way with any victim or witness
- comply with other conditions considered necessary for the safety and security of victims or witnesses
- not possess any weapons (The judge must make this order if the alleged offence involved violence, a weapon or criminal harassment.)
Even if the accused is held in custody, the judge may still make a non-communication order that directs the accused not to communicate, directly or indirectly, with victims, witnesses or any other person identified in the order. A non-communication order covers all types of communications, including letters or phone calls from or on behalf of the accused.
The police, Victim Services, or the court can explain any bail conditions to you. You can ask for a copy of the bail order if the conditions directly relate to you, for example if the judge orders the accused not to contact you.
Victims have a right to be told where and when the case is being heard and be informed about the progress and outcome of a case.
If someone is charged with a crime they must go to court to answer the charges. Sometimes an accused will decide to plead guilty to the charges. This means that the accused is admitting to committing the crime. In this case there will not be a trial to determine if the accused is guilty, although there may be court proceedings to determine the sentence.
Depending on the circumstances the accused may decide to plead guilty early on in the process or much later, perhaps even during the trial. If the accused does not plead guilty there will be a trial. If the accused pleads guilty or is found guilty after a trial the court must then decide on a sentence.
Most often the person accused of the crime will appear in court a number of different times, even if they decide to plead guilty to the charges. Court dates can change and court proceedings may begin and then be adjourned. This means they will continue on another date. Sometimes people only find out that a case is going to be adjourned when they arrive at the court house. Victim Services can help you find out when and where hearings and trials will take place.
Victim Services can explain the court process and the terms used. They can arrange for a court orientation so you will know what to expect when you go to court. Victim Services may be able to have someone go to court with you for support. You may also choose to have friends and family accompany you.
People in Court
Crown Prosecutors are lawyers employed by the government to present the case against the accused. In Canadian law, crimes are dealt with as wrongs against society as a whole even though individuals often suffer injury or damage. A Crown Prosecutor is not the victim's lawyer. The Crown Prosecutor acts on behalf of all members of the public.
The Crown Prosecutor decides whether to lay a criminal charge in some cases, and determines whether there is enough evidence to justify taking the case to trial. The Crown Prosecutor prepares the case by researching the law; gathering and reviewing evidence, exhibits, and paperwork for court; and interviewing witnesses. The Crown Prosecutor's role is to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the offence was committed by the accused.
Defence Lawyer (Defence Counsel)
A lawyer who represents a person charged with a criminal offence is known as a defence lawyer. It is the defence lawyer's job to ensure that the rights of the accused are protected throughout the criminal process. An accused person has a right to see the evidence against them, including statements of witnesses and victims. The defence lawyer may negotiate to have the charges withdrawn or to allow the accused to plead guilty to a lesser charge. They may also explore the possibility of alternative measures for their client.
At trial, a defence lawyer must question the evidence put forward by the prosecution, including the evidence of witnesses, examine the importance or relevance of that evidence and explore other possible interpretations. The defence lawyer must do so within the limits of the law and according to ethical standards.
Accused (Person Charged)
The person charged with a criminal offence is known as the accused or the defendant. They may have a lawyer to represent them or simply to give advice about the proceedings, including whether to plead guilty or not guilty. The accused person hires and instructs a lawyer, but makes the final decision about how to plead and whether to testify or not. Sometimes an accused will not have a lawyer. In these cases the accused does the things that a defence lawyer would normally do, such as cross‑examining witnesses.
Justice of the Peace
Justices of the Peace are Saskatchewan Justice Officials authorized to carry out some judicial functions, such as issuing arrest or search warrants. Sometimes, at an early stage of a criminal proceeding, an accused person appears before a Justice of the Peace, not a judge. However, Justices of the Peace do not conduct criminal trials or sentence people.
The trial judge oversees the trial to help ensure a fair and balanced treatment of the issues. The judge decides how the law applies to the case being tried. Throughout the trial, the judge must treat all participants - the Crown Prosecutor, defence lawyer, the accused and witnesses - fairly and courteously.
The judge decides what evidence is or is not admissible, based on the law. If some evidence is not admissible, it cannot be used to decide whether the accused is guilty of the offence. If there is no jury, the judge also makes the finding of facts - deciding what actually happened. Then the judge will decide whether the evidence proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the offence.
Either the Crown Prosecutor or the accused may decide to appeal the trial judge's decision. If they do, it will be because they disagree with how the judge decided an issue during the trial or during sentencing.
Although the right to a jury trial is available for many criminal cases, jury trials are rare. Some offences, such as murder, must be tried by a jury, except where the accused person and the Attorney General agree to a trial without a jury.
Each province has laws that set out how juries are selected and who is eligible to serve on a jury. When a jury is needed, the Sheriff calls a number of people to court. The Crown Prosecutor and the defence lawyer choose the jury from these people.
The jury for a criminal trial is made up of 12 people who do not have legal training. During the trial, the jurors listen to all the evidence. Sometimes the judge asks the jury to leave the courtroom while the lawyers argue about whether the jury may hear certain evidence. This is called a voir dire.
The judge explains the law to the jury. At the end of the trial the jury leaves the courtroom and meets to decide whether they are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the crime. All members of the jury must agree on whether the accused is guilty or not. If they cannot all agree it is called a hung jury and a second trial may be ordered.
Other people work in the courtroom too. The clerk of the court assists the judge, announces when the court is in session and records the exhibits. If the accused person or a witness is in custody, the bailiff accompanies them to court. The bailiff also helps maintain order in the court. Court reporters sometimes attend court to record evidence as it is given. In most courtrooms recording machines have replaced court reporters. If the lawyers ask for a transcript, a court reporter uses the record to prepare the transcript of the trial. A transcript is a printed record of everything that is said in court. Transcripts are often used at appeal hearings.
Privacy in Court
Victims have the right to have their privacy considered by the appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system and respected to the greatest extent possible. Victims also have the right to request that their identity be protected.
Court proceedings are generally open to the public. However, the court may order that the public be excluded or that a witness be allowed to testify behind a screen or other device that prevents the public from seeing them. In deciding whether to give one of these orders the court considers things such as...
- safeguarding the interests of witnesses under the age of 18 years
- the ability of the witness to give a full and candid account of the acts complained of if the order were not made
- whether the witness needs the order for their security or to protect them from intimidation or retaliation
- whether effective alternatives to the making of the proposed order are available
Contact the Crown Prosecutor if you have concerns about privacy in court.
Even if the public is not excluded from the court, a publication ban may be ordered to prohibit the public and media from broadcasting the identity of victims and witnesses in all court proceedings. Publication bans are intended to protect the privacy of victims and witnesses and enable them to participate more fully in the criminal justice system.
Publication bans must be granted in sexual offence cases to protect the identity of any victim, if the victim or Crown Prosecutor requests the order. They must also be granted to any victim under the age of 18 who requests one. Publication bans may be ordered in other cases at the discretion of the court.
If a victim wants a publication ban they must make the request in writing and indicate why this type of protection is required. In determining whether to order a discretionary publication ban, the court must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to support the publication ban. The accused person and any other person that may be affected by the publication ban must be notified of the application, and the judge may hold a hearing to determine whether the ban is necessary for the proper administration of justice.
If the judge orders a publication ban no one, including the victim, can communicate with the media about the case in any way that would identify them as the victim.
A person accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty. If the accused does not plead guilty, there will be a trial. Sometimes a preliminary inquiry is held before proceeding to trial.
A preliminary inquiry is a hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence to justify sending the case to trial. At the hearing, the Crown Prosecutor presents critical elements of the evidence against the accused. Witnesses, including victims, may be called to testify. The charge will be dismissed if the judge decides that there is not enough evidence to justify a trial. If the judge finds there is enough evidence, the judge commits the accused for trial and, unless the accused pleads guilty, a trial date is set.
Trials are held before a judge alone or a judge and jury. For some types of crimes the accused can choose whether to be tried by judge alone or by judge with a jury.
At any criminal trial the Crown Prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused person committed a criminal offence. The judge, or the members of the jury if there is one, cannot find the person guilty if they have a reasonable doubt about the accused person's guilt. They have a reasonable doubt if, after considering all the evidence, they are unsure whether the accused person committed the offence. To convict, the judge or the jury must believe that the only sensible explanation, considering all the evidence, is that the accused person committed the crime.
At the start of the trial, both the Crown Prosecutor and the lawyer for the accused (called the defence lawyer) can make opening statements that summarize the main points of their case.
Following opening statements, the Crown Prosecutor presents the case for the prosecution and calls witnesses. The Crown Prosecutor asks the witnesses questions to help them tell the court what they have seen or heard. Then the defence lawyer can cross‑examine the witnesses to challenge the evidence they gave. Once the defence lawyer is finished, the Crown Prosecutor can ask the witnesses more questions to make sure everything is clear. This is called redirect.
Once the Crown Prosecutor has finished presenting their case, the defence can present their side. Because it is up to the Crown Prosecutor to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the defence can choose not to present any evidence. The accused does not have to testify. If the defence calls witnesses, the Crown Prosecutor can cross-examine the witnesses. The defence lawyer can then ask more questions of the witness on redirect.
At the end of the trial the Crown Prosecutor and the defence lawyer will make closing arguments. This gives them a chance to the tell the court why they think the evidence shows that the accused is guilty or not guilty of the crime.
Being a Witness
As a victim you may be required to testify in court about what happened. Your testimony may be a very important part of the Crown's case against the accused. Other people you know may also be asked to testify. If you are required as a witness you will probably receive a subpoena. A subpoena is an order of the court requiring a person to appear in court and give evidence. A subpoena must be served on you personally. It cannot be sent in the mail. You should read the subpoena carefully.
You must appear in court to testify at the time and date stated in the subpoena. If you do not appear as required the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. If you refuse to testify you could be held in contempt of court and face a fine, or jail, or both. If you must travel to be a witness, the Crown Prosecutor's office may cover some of your expenses, but it is important to call the number on the subpoena before you travel for more information about expenses.
You may be unsure about understanding and answering questions properly. You may be worried about not remembering important dates, times or other details. These concerns are normal. You can ask to meet with the Crown Prosecutor to discuss what you have to say as a witness. The defence lawyer may also ask to talk to you before you testify. You can meet with the defence lawyer if you want to, but you do not have to.
When you get to court you will have to wait outside of the courtroom until it is your turn to testify. In larger communities, Victim Services provides safe, private waiting rooms for children and other vulnerable witnesses. One of the court staff will call you when it is time for you to testify.
Before testifying, adult witnesses must take an oath or solemnly affirm to tell the truth. Witnesses under the age of 14 are not required to take an oath or make a solemn affirmation before testifying. Instead, they may testify once they have promised to tell the truth.
A witness aged 14 or older whose mental capacity is challenged may give evidence if they understand the nature of an oath or solemn affirmation, and if they can communicate the evidence. If they do not understand the nature of the oath or the solemn affirmation, but can communicate the evidence, they may testify once they have promised to tell the truth.
It is an offence for a person to harass a witness or try to influence a witness's testimony. If this happens to you, tell the police or Crown Prosecutor right away.
Once you have taken an oath or affirmed to tell the truth the Crown Prosecutor will ask you questions to help you tell the court what happened. The defence lawyer can then also ask you questions.
Supports for Witnesses
Victims have the right to request testimonial aids when appearing as a witness in proceedings relating to the offence.
Often it is difficult to testify about what happened. You may have fears and concerns about testifying in court, or be worried about giving personal information. Some witnesses may have special needs that make it hard for them to understand or hear what is going on in court or that make it hard for others to understand them. For some witnesses, speaking in open court about what happened may be very hard. There is support and help available.
There are six Victim/Witness Programs located throughout the province that provide support to children and other vulnerable witnesses. These programs work with witnesses, courts and Crown Prosecutors to make sure that the needs of a witness are known. They also provide information about the process and court tours. They can arrange to provide support and assistance to a witness when they are attending court.
If you have trouble communicating for any reason, the court can arrange to help you testify. This help could include translation services or special equipment if you have difficulty speaking or hearing. If this is the case you should tell the prosecutor or a Victim Services worker as soon as possible.
If a witness is under 18 or has difficulty communicating because of a mental or physical disability, the court can allow a video recording of the witness describing the crime to be used as evidence in court. This may make it easier for the witness to testify since they will not have to repeat their description of the crime on the stand. The witness must adopt the videotaped evidence in court and is still subject to cross-examination by the defence. The judge can decide not to allow a recording to be used if it would interfere with the proper administration of justice.
If a witness is under 18 or has difficulty communicating because of a mental or physical disability the court must allow them to testify behind a screen or outside of the courtroom by closed-circuit television if it is requested.
If a witness is under 18 or has a mental or physical disability the court must allow them to have a support person if it is requested. The support person can be with the witness while they testify.
A support person or testimony by closed-circuit television or behind a screen may be allowed for other witnesses if the judge believes they are necessary for the witness to be able to speak freely about the crime. In deciding this the judge considers things like the nature of the crime, the relationship between the accused and the witness, the age of the witness and whether the witness has a mental or physical disability.
If you want a support person or want to testify by closed-circuit television or behind a screen you or the Crown Prosecutor must make this request to the judge. You should talk to the Crown Prosecutor about this as early as possible before the court date. It is important to know that closed-circuit television equipment for testimony outside the courtroom is not available in all communities, so this may not be possible in every case.
Sometimes the accused person does not have a lawyer. This means the accused could cross-examine the witness directly. In some cases, the court can appoint a lawyer to cross-examine the witness on behalf of the accused. This can happen for witnesses under the age of 18, and for victims of criminal harassment (sometimes called stalking). If this request is made to the court, the judge will order this to happen, unless the judge believes that the accused needs to conduct the cross-examination personally to ensure the proper administration of justice.
For witnesses over the age of 18, a lawyer can be appointed to cross-examine them if the judge believes it is necessary for the witness to be able to speak freely about the crime. In deciding this the judge considers things like the nature of the crime, the relationship between the accused and the victim/witness, the age of the witness and whether the witness has a mental or physical disability.
If the charges are proven beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, the judge or jury finds the accused person guilty. If the charges are not proven, the accused is found not guilty. Another way of saying this is that the person accused of the crime is acquitted. After a person has been tried and acquitted, they may not be tried for that crime again, unless the Crown Prosecutor successfully appeals the case. If you are not in the courtroom for the verdict you can ask the Crown Prosecutor or Victim Services about the outcome of the trial.
As a victim you may not be satisfied with the way the trial turned out. For example, an accused may be acquitted even though you thought there was enough evidence for a conviction. If an accused is acquitted it does not necessarily mean that you were not believed. Our laws presume that someone is innocent unless their guilt is proved in court beyond a reasonable doubt. This means it is not enough if the judge thinks the accused probably committed the crime. The judge must be convinced that a guilty verdict is the only reasonable conclusion that could be reached from all the evidence, including your testimony. If you are unsatisfied with how a trial turned out it may help to talk about your reactions with someone you trust.
If an accused is found guilty they will be sentenced. There are a wide range of possible sentences for many crimes. As well, a youth who was under 18 when the crime was committed will be subject to different sentences than an adult. Things like pre-sentence reports and Victim Impact Statements can help the court decide on a sentence. Sometimes a sentence will involve the offender compensating the victim in some way for the harm done.
The Crown Prosecutor or Victim Services can tell you the time, date and place of the sentencing hearing if you ask. If you are not there when the sentence is decided, Victim Services can tell you what sentence the offender received. You can view and print the text of a court decision by going to the Law Society of Saskatchewan's website.
Victim Impact Statements
Victims have the right to present a Victim Impact Statement and have it considered.
A Victim Impact Statement gives you a chance to let the court know how the crime has affected your life. It can be filled out by any person that the police, Crown Prosecutor or Victims Services identify as having been harmed or having suffered a physical, emotional or financial loss as the result of a reported crime. In some cases where there is more than one person who has been affected by the crime, the judge may choose to limit the number of Victim Impact Statements that can be filed. If the victim is deceased or incapable of making a statement because of illness, or another reason, a statement can be filled in by a relative or a person who is responsible for caring for the victim or a dependent of the victim. All victims must be informed that they can prepare a statement. All victims can decide for themselves whether they want to complete a Victim Impact Statement.
In the statement you can describe any physical, emotional or financial impacts of the crime. The statement is about you, not the accused, and should describe how the crime has affected you and any losses you have suffered because of the crime. You should identify your relationship to the offence and to any other victims of the offence. You need to include any concerns you have about probation conditions. For example, if you do not want any contact with the accused it is important to state this.
Certain things should not be included in a Victim Impact Statement. Information about the facts of the offence should not be included. This kind of information is usually given in any statements you made to the police about the crime and/or in testimony in court. Vengeful comments and complaints about the justice system and how the case was handled should not be included. Although the judge will consider how the crime has affected you when sentencing an offender, your statement should not include sentencing suggestions. It is up to the judge to decide on a sentence.
The police or Police-based Victim Services will provide you with a form to fill out and sign. Forms are also available online. You may receive assistance in filling out the form but it must be completed in your own words. Your writing must be readable. If you want to complete a Victim Impact Statement but cannot write it out in either English or French you should discuss this with the police, Victims Services or the Crown Prosecutor. It may be possible for your statement to be recorded and presented in a different way.
Since sentencing may take place earlier than expected, it is a good idea to prepare your Victim Impact Statement ahead of the anticipated court date. You may update your statement any time before sentencing by contacting the police or the Crown Prosecutor.
If the case goes to court the Crown Prosecutor must disclose the Victim Impact Statement to the accused. It will only be filed with the court if there is a finding of guilt. Once your statement is filed with the court it becomes a public document. This means that it will be seen by many people responsible for the administration of justice. This could include, for example, a Crown Prosecutor preparing for a bail hearing, probation staff who are supervising the offender on probation and corrections staff who are making decisions about the release of an offender from jail. If you testify at a preliminary hearing, trial or sentencing hearing you may be cross-examined by the defence lawyer about your Victim Impact Statement.
The judge will consider your statement at the time of sentencing but the judge may decide not to allow certain parts of your statement to be used in court. The judge can postpone sentencing to give you time to prepare a statement, if you have not already done so.
You can ask to read your Victim Impact Statement out loud in court. If you want to read it out loud in court you must tell the Crown Prosecutor. If you do not want to read it yourself you can ask the judge to have someone read it for you. The judge will decide whether to allow this. You can present your statement in any way that the court approves. Whether the statement is read aloud or not, the judge will consider it when sentencing the offender.
Victims have the right to have the court consider making a restitution order against the offender. Victims also have the right to have a restitution order entered as a civil court judgment that is enforceable against the offender if it is not paid as ordered.
When a person is convicted of a crime a judge may order the offender to pay restitution to the victim. Restitution can be ordered to pay for damages or losses a victim has suffered because of the crime. Restitution can only be ordered for expenses or damages. It cannot be ordered to compensate for things like pain and suffering.
Restitution can be ordered to cover...
- damage or loss of property
- financial losses or expenses due to a physical injury
- expenses like temporary housing, food, childcare, transportation or for moving out of the offender's household where the harm is to the offender's spouse or child
- financial loss due to fraud
If you would like the judge to consider restitution you must complete a Statement on Restitution. This form is available from the police, Police-based Victim Services or online. Police-based Victim Services or Restitution Program Staff can help you fill it out. You must return your form to the local police, RCMP or to the nearest Police-based Victim Service as soon as possible so that the judge can consider it when the offender is sentenced.
You can apply for restitution and still go ahead and repair any damages resulting from the crime. However, it is important to keep all invoices or bills for the cost of repairs, replacements or any other directly related expenses.
If the person is convicted the judge may ask a probation officer to prepare a report about your loss and the offender's ability to pay. The judge will consider all the facts and decide if restitution should be ordered and, if so, the amount of restitution. If restitution is ordered you will be told the amount and how much time the offender has been given to pay you.
Restitution may be ordered on its own, as part of a probation order or as part of a conditional sentence. Offenders pay the money to the court and then it is passed on to the victim. Victims can register their restitution orders with the Ministry of Justice at no cost. Collection officers then act on the victim's behalf to collect any unpaid amounts.
Before deciding on what sentence to give, a judge may ask for a pre-sentence report. The pre-sentence report includes such things as the age, maturity, character, behaviour and attitude of the offender. It may also look at whether there are positive influences in the offender's life, the offender's school or employment record, any plans for personal development proposed by the offender and the availability of appropriate services and programs in the community.
In the case of offenders who were under the age of 18 when the offence was committed, the pre-sentence report is prepared by a community youth worker. For adult offenders it is prepared by a probation officer. The person who writes the report will interview the offender and others involved in the offender's life. As a victim, you may be interviewed as well.
If you think you may have information that should be included in the pre-sentence report you can tell Victim Services and, with your permission, they can give your contact information to the person preparing the report. You can also call the Crown Prosecutor, probation officer or community youth worker directly.
The pre-sentence report lists the names of all the people who gave information for the report. Generally, if you give information, your name will be on the list. You may be cross-examined about the information you gave, though that is unlikely. If the crime included violence or threats, the report cannot list your name. That means the defence lawyer or the offender will not know your name. However, a separate memo will give your name to the Crown Prosecutor and the judge.
Sentences Under the Criminal Code
After the judge or jury finds a person guilty, the defence lawyer and the Crown Prosecutor each recommend a sentence to the judge. In the case of second-degree murder if a jury finds a person guilty, the judge will ask if the jury has a recommendation as to the length of time the person should be jailed before becoming eligible for parole. The judge chooses from the range of sentences set by law.
In some communities the judge conducts a sentencing circle at the time of sentencing the accused person. The sentencing circle involves members of the community. Community members gather to discuss what sentence would be appropriate. The judge will consider input from Elders, friends or neighbours in deciding on the sentence.
A judge rarely gives the maximum sentence. The maximum sentence is intended for the worst offender who has committed the worst type of offence. Some offences have mandatory sentences. For example, a person who is convicted of murder must be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 10 to 25 years.
The judge decides on the sentence by looking at the circumstances surrounding the offence and the number, if any, of previous offences. The person's situation affects the judge's decision too. The judge considers such things as the person's age, whether they are employed and whether they suffer from a mental or physical illness. The judge will also consider any Victim Impact Statements and the pre-sentence report.
Absolute or Conditional Discharge
A discharge is when the person is found guilty or pleads guilty but the judge does not give them a sentence. No conviction is entered against the accused person.
A discharge is available for many offences. A person may receive a discharge for any offence that has a maximum penalty of less than 14 years imprisonment. A discharge can be absolute or conditional. If no conditions are attached, the discharge is immediate. A person cannot receive an absolute or conditional discharge for an offence that carries a minimum sentence.
If the judge attaches conditions to the discharge, it is a conditional discharge. The judge orders a term of probation. Community service may be a condition. The Crown Prosecutor may apply to have the discharge revoked if the person does not comply with the conditions.
Probation can be a sentence, or it can be ordered in addition to another sentencing penalty, such as jail time.
The judge can suspend passing a sentence and release the convicted person on probation for most offences. A person on probation remains out of custody but receives supervision from a probation officer.
When a person receives a sentence of imprisonment that is not longer than two years, that person also may receive a term of probation. The judge also may order a term of probation in addition to a fine.
Probation orders usually say that the person must keep the peace, be of good behaviour and fulfill any other conditions the judge imposes. A judge may order that the person perform community service for a certain number of hours. A probation order can be in effect for up to three years.
The conditions of a probation order may affect you as a victim. For example, a judge may order restitution or require the offender to have no contact with you. If the offender contacts you when the court has ordered no contact, call the police and then notify the probation officer of the breach.
If the person does not keep the terms of the order, they can be charged with breach of probation. A breach of probation is a separate criminal offence. If the Crown Prosecutor applies to the judge for re-sentencing, the judge also may revoke the probation order and sentence the person for the original offence.
A judge can order the person to pay a fine. A fine is a set amount of money that the person pays to the court. Usually a judge gives a fine alone, but the judge may combine it with another sentence, such as imprisonment and a fine. A judge can fine a person only if the judge is satisfied that the person can afford to pay the fine or can work it off. If the person does not pay or work off the fine, the judge may order the person to go to jail.
In some cases, the judge makes an order that takes away the accused person's driving privileges. This is called a prohibition order. Where a person is convicted of impaired driving, driving with a blood alcohol content exceeding .08, or refusing to take a Breathalyzer or sobriety test, the judge must make a prohibition order of at least one year for a first offence. Where an accused is convicted of dangerous driving or other driving offences, the judge may make a prohibition order, but does not have to. This order is in addition to any fine or imprisonment. Prohibition periods increase for second or third convictions.
A prohibition order is part of the accused person's sentence. It is effective throughout the country and means that the person cannot drive a vehicle anywhere in Canada.
Conditional sentences are an addition to the traditional forms of imprisonment. The sentence is considered to be a custody sentence, but it is served in the community instead of jail. Conditional sentences are not available for some offences such as some serious personal injury offences and offences that have a minimum term of imprisonment. It must be for a period of less than two years. There are certain terms that are a part of the sentence. Along with supervision, these terms will govern the offender in the community. A conditional sentence may appear to be similar to a probation order. However, if the conditions of the sentence are not met, the offender may face harsher consequences. Violations could result in the offender serving the rest of their sentence in jail.
Imprisonment is the most serious sentence under our law because it deprives a person of their freedom. The judge may sentence a person who is convicted of a serious offence or who is a repeat offender to jail. A person goes to a provincial institution if their sentence is less than two years. A person sentenced to two years or more usually goes to a federal penitentiary. There is a range of ways to serve custody sentences.
Where a judge orders a sentence of imprisonment for 90 days or less, the judge may order that the person serve the sentence intermittently. This type of order allows a person to serve the sentence on weekends and holidays. The judge sets out when the person is to be in jail. An intermittent sentence allows a person to continue working, studying or looking after their family while serving a short sentence. When a person serving an intermittent sentence is out of jail, they are on probation.
Indeterminate Sentence for Dangerous Offenders
A person who committed a violent offence or who committed certain sexual offences, such as making child pornography, may be declared to be a dangerous offender. This is done at a special hearing. Following this hearing the person may be sentenced to an indeterminate period of detention. Indeterminate means the judge does not say when the sentence ends. The dangerous offender is kept in jail with no fixed date for release. The Parole Board of Canada reviews the case after seven years and every two years after that.
Sentences for Youth
A young person who is under the age of 18 when the crime was committed is subject to different consequences than an adult. The purpose of sentencing a young person is to hold the young person accountable for an offence by using fair sanctions with meaningful consequences. A judge may call a conference to hear recommendations on an appropriate sentence for the young person.
There is a broad range of sentencing options available to a court sentencing a young person. In deciding on a sentence the judge will consider any Victim Impact Statements, the pre-sentence report, as well as any recommendations from the conference. The sentencing options can be used alone, or often in conjunction with other options. They include...
- reprimand of the young person
- a conditional or absolute discharge (there are no further consequences for the young person)
- a fine of up to $1,000
- payment to any person of a sum of money, compensating them in kind, or performing personal service, as compensation for property loss, personal injuries or loss of income
- community service
- probation for up to two years
- referral to a provincially-run support and supervision program
- a custody and supervision order
- in some cases, a prohibition from owning certain weapons or explosive devices
If the court orders a youth to return certain property the probation officer will be in charge of making sure this is done.
The maximum length of a custody and supervision order depends on the offence...
- for first degree murder, the maximum youth sentence is ten years
- for second degree murder, the maximum youth sentence is seven years
- for some very serious offences the maximum youth sentence is three years
- for all other offences, the maximum youth sentence is two years
As with sentences in adult court, if a sentence is for custody of no more than 90 days, it could be served intermittently (that is, part-time, such as weekends only). This would depend on the circumstances of the offence and the availability of youth detention facilities that could accommodate an intermittent sentence.
For some offences, the court could impose an intensive custody and rehabilitation order. Under such an order, the young person would be subject to an intensive rehabilitation program during the custodial portion of the sentence. This is done to ensure treatment for the young person, which may in turn help deal with problems that led to the offending behaviour. A period of conditional supervision in the community would follow. The conditions of the supervision are intended to maintain a degree of control and oversight for the young person, as they become integrated into the community.
In some cases a young person could receive an adult sentence. For example, an adult sentence could be imposed for any offence that an adult could be sentenced to a prison term of more than two years for, provided that the youth was at least 14 when the offence was committed. However, this does not mean that an adult sentence would automatically apply in this situation. Generally, the Crown must ask for an adult sentence and show the court why a youth sentence would not be adequate.
The offender may be sentenced to custody. As a victim you may have continuing concerns and may want information about where the offender is and when they may be temporarily or permanently released. An adult offender sentenced to less than two years will serve the sentence in a provincial jail. An adult offender who is sentenced to more than two years will serve the sentence in a federal prison. A youth who is sentenced to custody will generally serve the sentence in a youth facility.
An offender will sometimes be allowed in the community while serving a custody sentence, with or without supervision. As well, offenders will not generally spend their entire sentence in custody. Adult offenders in provincial jails or federal prisons and youth offenders will generally be released into the community, under supervision, after serving two-thirds of their sentence, if they have not already been released, for example on parole.
When the Offender is in a Provincial Jail
Policing and Corrections is responsible for all youth who are in custody in Saskatchewan, as well as adults who are serving a sentence of less than two years in Saskatchewan. For their purposes they define a victim as anyone who has...
- filed a Victim Impact Statement with the court
- applied for victim compensation
- been identified by the police as a victim
Policing and Corrections considers victim safety and the victim's viewpoint in the ongoing management of an offender's sentence. Victims are informed and consulted when case management plans are developed for offenders. They are also consulted when Policing and Corrections is considering an authorized absence for an offender. In the case of adult offenders, victims will be notified if an authorized absence is granted and informed of the location, conditions and duration of the authorized absence.
Policing and Corrections will normally communicate directly with the victim unless the victim has requested that there not be any contact or requested that contact be made through a Victim Services agency. If the victim is under 18, contact is normally made with the parent or legal guardian of the victim.
When the Offender is in a Federal Penitentiary
Correctional Service Canada (CSC) supervises offenders in federal prisons and when they are released from a federal prison. CSC can provide victims with information about the offender. Victims can provide information to the CSC about the impact the crime has had and any safety concerns they may have.
CSC considers anyone who has suffered physical or emotional harm, property damage or economic loss as the result of a crime to be a victim. If a victim is deceased or cannot act for themselves, people close to the victim can act for the victim including...
- the victim's spouse or common-law partner
- a relative or dependant of the victim
- anyone who is responsible for the care or support of the victim or the victim's dependant
Information will not automatically be provided to victims. Some victims do not want any further information about the offender. If you want to receive information you must fill out an application or register with the CSC through their Victims Portal. If you do not want to receive information directly you can give someone else written authorization to receive information on your behalf.
Victims and any member of the public can request certain basic information about offenders in custody. This includes information such as what the offender was convicted of, the length of the sentence, and when the offender is eligible for unescorted temporary absences, day parole and full parole.
If you meet the definition of victim you can request additional information not normally disclosed to the public. Additional information may be provided if the victim's interest in receiving the information outweighs the need to protect the offender's privacy. Additional information that may be disclosed includes things like...
- the offender's age
- whether the offender is in custody and, if not, why
- the name and location of the institution where the offender is being held
- whether the offender has been transferred from one institution to another
- information about the programs in which the offender is participating or has participated
- any serious disciplinary offences committed by the offender
- the reasons for any temporary absence
- information about an offender's progress in relation to their correctional plan
- the offender's release date, destination and conditions of release (This will be provided 14 days prior to their release unless the disclosure would have a negative impact on public safety.)
- a current photo of the offender prior to certain releases
- information about CSC's victim-mediation services
As a victim you can also chose to provide information to the CSC. You can tell them about any safety concerns you have and how the crime has affected you or your family. You can also give the CSC information about the offender. If you filed a Victim Impact Statement when the offender was sentenced, Correctional Service Canada must obtain a copy. You do not need to repeat the information you put in your Victim Impact Statement.
You can provide information anonymously by calling 1-866-780-3784 any time of the day or night. You can also provide a written Victim Statement.
Correctional Service Canada will use your information when making decisions about the offender's correctional plan. They will also use your information when deciding about an offender's release into the community. If the information is used to make a decision about the offender, the information must be shared with the offender. However things like your contact information will not be shared.
Victim's Right Not to be Contacted by Inmates
The judge may order the offender not to contact you while the offender is in prison. If the judge has made a non-contact order and you are contacted by the offender, you should advise Correctional Service Canada. If the judge has not made a non-contact order, but you do not wish to be contacted by the offender, you can let Correctional Service Canada know and they will make every effort to stop the offender from contacting you by telephone or mail.
Restorative Opportunities is a Correctional Service Canada program. It provides interested victims of crime with an opportunity to communicate with the offender in a safe, structured environment. Through this process victims may...
- gain information about the crime and the offender
- express the full impact of the crime on their life
- get answers to some of the questions they have about the crime
- have a greater sense of closure
The program is flexible and voluntary. Victims do not have to take part. The program uses trained and experienced mediators. There are a number of ways victims can communicate with the offender, including by letter or video messages. Victims do not need to have face-to-face contact with the offender. Victims who wish to participate begin by contacting the Restorative Opportunities Coordinator by phone at 1-613-995-4445 or by E-mail at email@example.com.
Victims have the right to information about the timing of the offender's conditional release and the conditions of that release.
The Parole Board of Canada decides whether to grant, deny or revoke parole for an offender. Parole allows offenders to serve part of their sentence in the community under strict conditions and supervision. If the conditions of parole are not met the offender can be sent back to prison. Parole is not the same as statutory release. By law, most offenders, except those serving life or indeterminate sentences, must be released into the community after serving two-thirds of their sentence.
By law, most offenders serving time in a federal prison are also eligible to apply for full parole after serving one-third of their sentence or seven years, whichever is less. Different rules apply for offenders serving indeterminate sentences or life sentences for murder.
When making decisions about parole, the Parole Board of Canada considers the risk that the offender may present to the community, as well as if and how that risk can be managed in the community. Keeping the community safe is the overriding concern of the Board when making a decision about releasing an offender.
The Board will consider information from the victim. Information about the crime from the victim's perspective can help the Board assess whether the offender understands the harm done and whether the person is likely to commit another crime. Victims may also have information that is relevant to an offender's release plans. For example, the Board might order the offender not to contact a victim or not to be around children.
The law requires the Board to disclose to the offender any information provided by a victim that will be considered when deciding about their release. The victim's personal information, such as their address and phone number, is not disclosed. Although victims can provide information at any time, if you want the information to be considered at the parole hearing or you want to read a statement you must give it in writing 30 days before the hearing. This gives the Board time to disclose the information to the offender, as required by law.
The statement should provide information about the continuing impact of the crime. This could include any physical, emotional, medical or financial consequences. The statement should also include any concerns that a victim has for their own or others' safety if the offender is released and why the victim has these concerns.
Sometimes victims want to attend the parole hearing and read their statement. If you want to attend a hearing you should apply in writing as early as possible, preferably at least 30 days before the hearing. You can also apply for financial assistance to cover travel, hotel and meal expenses, for you and your support person. This application should be made at least 30 days before the hearing date. Applications for financial assistance are made to the Department of Justice Victims Fund.
Requests can be made to the Parole Board of Canada for copies of the Board decisions.
If you are a victim of crime there is help available. Throughout this booklet the rights of victims and programs and services to assist victims have been explained. The following contact information will help victims access these programs and services and exercise their rights.
Services for Victims
Victims Services - Regina
As the head office for Victims Services programs in Saskatchewan, this office funds community-based programs in the province, and oversees the Victims Compensation Program and services to victims who are going to court as witnesses.
These organizations provide court orientation and support to children and other vulnerable witnesses who are required to testify in court in Saskatchewan.
Battlefords Victim/Witness Services
c/o Battlefords Prosecution District
1146 102nd Street
North Battleford SK S9A 1E9
La Ronge Victim/Witness Services
c/o La Ronge Prosecutions District
2300-1328 La Ronge Avenue
PO Box 5000
La Ronge SK S0J 1L0
Meadow Lake Victim/Witness Services
c/o Meadow Lake Prosecutions District
PO Box 8
Meadow Lake SK S9X 1Y1
Prince Albert Victim/Witness Services
c/o Prince Albert Prosecutions District
1061 Central Avenue
PO Box 3003
Prince Albert SK S6V 6G1
Regina Victim/Witness Services
c/o Regina Prosecutions District
910-1801 Hamilton Street
Regina SK S4P 4B4
Saskatoon Victim/Witness Services
c/o Saskatoon Prosecutions District
224 4th Avenue South
Saskatoon SK S7K 5M5
Police-Based Victim Services
A number of police services throughout the province have victim services. Call the program closest to you in the list below, or contact your local police for information about one in your area. You can also find these listed online.
North Saskatchewan Victim Services
Beauval RCMP - 306-288-6406
Birch Narrows RCMP
Buffalo Narrows RCMP - 306-235-4910
Buffalo River RCMP
Canoe Lake RCMP - 306-829-5673
Creighton RCMP - 306-688-8201
Deschambault Lake RCMP
English River RCMP
Fond du Lac RCMP - 306-686-2060
Ile-a-la-Crosse RCMP - 306-833-6309
La Loche RCMP - 306-822-1888
La Ronge RCMP - 306-425-4378
Montreal Lake RCMP
Pelican Narrows RCMP - 306-632-3308
Pinehouse RCMP - 306-884-2406
Sandy Bay RCMP - 306-754-4606
Southend RCMP - 306-758-5670
Stanley Mission RCMP
Stony Rapids/Black Lake RCMP - 306-439-2090
Wollaston Lake RCMP
Battlefords Victim Services
Midwest Victim Services
Moose Jaw and District Victim Services
Northeast Regional Victim Services
Parkland Victim Services
Prince Albert Victim Services
Regina Region Victim Services
Regina Victim Services
Saskatchewan Central Victim Services
Saskatoon Victim Services
South West Victim Services
South East Regional Victim Services
Domestic Violence Services
Abuse Help Lines
The front of your SaskTel phone book has contact information for abuse help lines, shelters and counselling, and support services in your area.
Child Abuse Hotline
Kids Help Phone
Provincial Association of Transition Houses (PATHS)
PATHS is a non-profit organization that provides services to abused women and children, including fact sheets, pamphlets, posters and resource materials. PATHS also has information on shelters, counselling and support services, and abuse help lines throughout Saskatchewan.
Domestic Violence Victim Services
Battlefords Domestic Violence Treatment Option Court - Victim Services
Battlefords Victim Services
1052 101st Street
North Battleford SK S9A 0Z3
Regina Domestic Violence Victim Services
Family Service Regina
200-1440 Broadway Avenue
Regina SK S4P 1E2
Saskatoon Domestic Violence Court Caseworkers
259A 3rd Avenue South
Saskatoon SK S7K 1M3
Sexual Assault Services
Battlefords & Area Sexual Assault Centre
24-Hour Crisis Line: 306-446-4444
Toll-Free Crisis Line: 1-866-567-0055
The Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres (CASAC)
Envision Counselling and Support Centre
24-Hour Crisis Line, Toll-Free: 1-800-214-7083
Lloydminster Sexual Assault & Information Centre
5011 49 Ave
Lloydminster SK S9V 1R5
Phone (24-Hour Crisis Line): 306-825-8255
North East Outreach and Support Services (Melfort)
128 McKendry Ave W
Melfort SK S0E 1A0
24-Hour Crisis Line: 1-800-611-6349
Prince Albert Mobile Crisis Unit Sexual Assault Program
24-Hour Crisis Line: 306-764-1011
Regina Sexual Assault Centre
1830 MacKay Street
Regina SK S4N 6R4
24-Hour Sexual Assault Line: 306-352-0434
Sexual Assault Services of Saskatchewan
215-1102 8th Avenue
Regina SK S4R 1C9
Cell Phone: 306-526-8776
Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre
201-506 25th Street E
Saskatoon SK S7K 4A7
24-Hour Crisis Line: 306-244-2224
SIGN Sexual Assault Counselling Program (Yorkton)
83 North Street
Yorkton SK S3N 0G9
West Central Crisis & Family Support Centre (Kindersley)
24-Hour Support Line: 306-933-6200
A comprehensive online database of government and community programs and services, including emergency/crisis hotlines across the province.
Contact your local municipal police service or RCMP detachment using the number in your phone book or call 911 in an emergency.
Public Prosecutions Division of Saskatchewan
300-1874 Scarth Street
Regina SK S4P 4B3
Correctional Service Canada (CSC)
Federal government agency responsible for administering sentences of a term of two years or more, managing institutions and supervising offenders under conditional release in the community.
340 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa ON K1A 0P9
CSC - Victim Services
Victims can register with CSC to receive information about an offender by mail, phone or fax. Victims can use the Victim's Portal to access this information online.
Victim Information Line, Toll-Free: 1-866-806-2275
CSC - Restorative Opportunities Program
Offers victims a chance to communicate with the offender who caused the harm in a safe structured setting to try to develop options to address the harm caused.
Parole Board of Canada
An independent body that makes decisions about conditional releases for offenders.
410 Laurier Avenue W
Ottawa ON K1A 0R1
Prairies Regional Office
101 22nd Street E
Saskatoon SK S7K 0E1
Victim Information Line, Toll-Free: 1-866-789-4636
Saskatchewan Ministry of Corrections & Policing
1200-1874 Scarth Street
Regina SK S4P 4B3
Public Safety Canada - National Office for Victims
A single, national point of contact for victims who have concerns about offenders and questions about the federal correctional system and the Canadian justice system.
Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
Provides information about services and programs for victims available through the federal government.
PO Box 55037
Ottawa ON K1P 1A1
Policy Centre for Victim Issues
Develops policy and criminal law reform, administers the Victims Fund, and shares information about issues of importance to victims of crime.
Victims who feel that their rights as victims have not been respected can make a complaint. Every federal department, agency or body involved in the criminal justice system must have a complaint process. This process must include a review of the complaint, the power to recommend changes to remedy the situation and notification to victims of the results. Provincial ministries, boards or agencies will have their own processes.
Canadian Human Rights Commission
Investigates complaints about discrimination by a federal agency.
8th Floor, 344 Slater Street
Ottawa ON K1A 1E1
Canadian Judicial Council
Has the power to review and, where necessary, investigate any complaint or allegation against a federally appointed judge.
(No Street Address Required)
Ottawa ON K1A 0W8
Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP
Independent commission that receives and investigates complaints against the RCMP.
PO Box 1722 Station B
Ottawa ON K1P 0B3
Judicial Council of Saskatchewan
Has the power to review and, where necessary, investigate complaints of incapacity or misconduct involving Provincial Court judges; where appropriate, the council may warn, reprimand, express disapproval, suspend or recommend to the Minister of Justice that a judge be removed from office.
2425 Victoria Avenue
Regina SK S4P 4W6
Law Society of Saskatchewan
Governing body for the legal profession in Saskatchewan; responsible for setting standards for admission, standards of professional conduct for practicing lawyers, and disciplinary procedures for lawyers who violate those standards.
1100-2002 Victoria Avenue
Regina SK S4P 0R7
Phone: 306-569-8242 (inquiries)
Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
Can address complaints of victims relating to federal departments, laws and services.
PO Box 55037
Ottawa ON K1P 1A1
An independent office that investigates complaints received from members of the public who believe a provincial government service has dealt with them unfairly.
150-2401 Saskatchewan Drive
Regina SK S4P 4H8
500-350 3rd Avenue North
Saskatoon SK S7K 6G7
Public Complaints Commission (Municipal Police Complaints)
A non-police body that investigates complaints against members of municipal police services in Saskatchewan.
300-1919 Saskatchewan Drive
Regina SK S4P 4H2
916-122 3rd Avenue North
Saskatoon SK S7K 2H6
Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission
Deals with complaints in the area of human rights.
816-122 3rd Avenue North
Saskatoon SK S7K 2H6