If you have been charged with a crime the best way to protect yourself is to hire a criminal lawyer to represent you in your case as soon as possible. Mehdi Au LLP has criminal lawyers on staff who accept both private and Legal Aid retainers, who would be happy to speak with you.
In Canada, and throughout most common-law countries, crimes are generally dealt with by the state; the Crown prosecutes or withdraws the case, and usually the police decide to lay the charges, regardless of the opinion of the complainant and/or victim. In American television shows often you will see police officers ask victims if they want to “press charges”, this concept does not exist in Canada and police are free to lay charges even if the victim does not want the matter to proceed. However, that is not to say that victims do not have any impact on criminal proceedings, and at trial they are usually the most important prosecution witness. Further in some cases (usually of a sexual nature) victims can retain their own counsel to act in their interest to try to prevent private records from being disclosed. One of the most common/impactful ways that victims can participate in the criminal process is via the mechanism of the “Victim Impact Statement”.
Criminal Code Provisions
The Criminal Code at section 722, contains information on when a victim impact statement is permitted:
722 (1) When determining the sentence to be imposed on an offender or determining whether the offender should be discharged under section 730 in respect of any offence, the court shall consider any statement of a victim prepared in accordance with this section and filed with the court describing the physical or emotional harm, property damage or economic loss suffered by the victim as the result of the commission of the offence and the impact of the offence on the victim.
The Code also allows the Victim to chose between a number of different methods of delivering their statement:
-With a support person present,
-Outside of the court room or behind a screen,
-While holding a photo of themselves before the crime,
-Read by a third party if appropriate/approved by the judge.
The Judge must approve the method by which the statement is read taking into numerous factors, such as; safety concerns, rights of the accused, fairness for the proceedings, impacts on jury members, etc.
When Are Victim Impact Statements Used
Victim Impact statements are used during the sentencing portion of a criminal proceeding (after a lost trial or a guilty plea). They are meant to impact the judge’s imposition of sentence and provide background of the impacts of the crime committed while allowing the victim to participate in the process. Victim Impact Statements must be submitted to the court in the proper, prescribed form, and typically the Crown Attorney’s or Victim’s Services office will reach out to victims and ask if they want to participate.
If you have been charged with a crime, many different factors can affect trial outcome and/or sentencing. The best way to protect yourself is to hire a criminal defence lawyer to protect your interests. Mehdi AU LLP in Markham and around GTA accepts both Legal Aid and private retainers, call today for a consult.
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