1. Is the Crown Counsel my lawyer?
The Crown Counsel is the Prosecutor in your case. We are the lawyers who will present the case against a defendant at the criminal trial.
The Crown Counsel is not your personal lawyer. The Crown Counsel is there as a representative of the Director of Public Prosecutions and to present the evidence based on the complaint to the Police.
2. Do I still have to show up to court if I want to drop my case?
If a complainant is adamant about not proceeding, the Crown Counsel may decide to have the complainant sworn so that they can personally inform the Judge that they do not wish for the trial to go forward.
If you have decided not to continue with the court case, you will also be required to give an additional statement to the Police explaining that you do not want to continue and the reason why you have changed your mind.
If you have been threatened or are concerned for your safety and this is the reason for you no longer wanting to continue with the case, there are things that can be organized so that you can give evidence and feel safe.
3. Am I required to talk in front of the Defendant in Court?
As a general rule, all witnesses for the Crown must give their evidence in “open” court. Open court means in front of the Defendant and possibly members of the public. It is the right of the Defendant to hear and see who is giving evidence against them so that they can defend themselves or answer to the things that are being said against them.
However, in sensitive matters or matters where children are involved, the use of screens or other means may be permitted.
Any evidence given in court is either made under oath, that is sworn on the Bible, or under affirmation. An affirmation is a promise which binds your conscious to tell the truth when giving evidence.
4. Is it possible for someone to call and find out information pertaining to my case?
Who or where to call, and what information will be released, varies depending on the identity of the caller and the purpose of the call:
Callers who are victims or witnesses for the Crown can call the Department of Public Prosecutions (296-1277) to ascertain the trial date, or to discuss their evidence with a Crown Counsel.
If a Defendant has a question about his trial date, a call can be made to the Court Liaison Unit (295-0011) or the Magistrates’ Court (295-5151).
No other information is disclosed over the telephone.
5. Do I have a say in what I believe the Defendant should be charged with?
The circumstances of every crime are different. The legislation provides guidance as to what charges should be brought against a defendant. The Crown Counsel’s decisions on charge are based on the strength of the evidence. The final decision on which offences will be prosecuted lies with the Director of Public Prosecutions.
6. Do I get a say in the sentence imposed on the Defendant in a case where I am the victim?
During the sentencing phase the feelings of the complainant are recorded in a Victim Impact Statement which is provided to the Court. This statement details how the crime has affected the complainant physically, emotionally and financially. As the Victim of a crime you are entitled to express your concerns about the crime and the effect that it has had on your life.
With regards to the sentence imposed on the Defendant, the Crown Counsel may make recommendations on the sentence type (community service, fine, prison) or range (time period).
The Court has the final decision on the sentence that the crime has merited, and passes sentences accordingly.
7. I am only a witness in the case – not the victim, do I need to give evidence in Court?
The circumstances of every crime are different. The Crown Counsel, the Witness Care Unit, or the officer in charge of your case will inform you whether you are required to give evidence in Court.
If you are informed that you are required to give evidence, then it is important that you attend court and give evidence of what you saw, heard or did. The court must give consideration to all of the evidence given by all of the witnesses.
8. Does the Prosecutor need to meet with me before I go to Court to tell what happened?
A meeting before going to court is called a pre-trial interview. The pre-trial interview has many purposes.
A Crown Counsel will use the pre-trial interview to introduce themselves to a witness. The Crown Counsel may review the witness’ statement and clarify anything that may be unclear from the information already on file.
A witness can use the pre-trial interview to ask any questions about going to court, giving evidence, or any other procedural concerns.
The Witness Care Unit is responsible for warning the witnesses in a case of their trial date, de-warning witnesses if the trial date is going to be changed. The Witness Care Unit also arranges for a witness to be given a copy of their statement and often organizes a court visit for the witness to familiarize them with the court.
9. Do I get a say in which Prosecutor is selected to prosecute my case?
Crown Counsel are assigned cases by the Director of Public Prosecutions. Crown Counsel are assigned cases based on their experience and their availability to prosecute on the relevant date. As a general rule a Victim cannot “choose” their Crown Counsel. However if there is a difficulty the victim’s preference may be considered. If you have a concern about a particular Crown Counsel this should be brought to the attention of the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Witness Care Unit.
10. Can the Prosecutor accept a plea from the Defendant to a less serious charge without my agreement?
All prosecutorial decisions are taken after a full review of the evidence available. A Crown Counsel may discuss his proposed course of action with a victim but is not required to do so.
11. If I cannot get my eyewitness to come to Court on my behalf will that mean that I cannot get justice?
The circumstances of every crime are different. There are legal provisions which can require the witness to attend Court and provisions which may allow a statement to be read in Court if the witness is unable to attend.