||This program provides emotional support and information to the victim or witness testifying in court. The program aims at assisting the most vulnerable victims of crime, including victims of spousal assault, child abuse, sexual assault and serious crimes such as attempt murder, murder and drinking and driving causing death or serious injury.
Among the services offered free of charge are:
- Information about the status of your case such as when you have to appear, conditions of bail or probation, and whether the accused was found guilty.
- Information about the criminal justice process and your role as a victim/witness,
- Where possible, you will be accompanied to the trial for support,
- A tour of the courtroom to familiarize you with the setting and the roles of those in court,
- Assisting the return of your property which was used as evidence,
- Information about victim impact statements,
- Referrals to other community agencies.
When an incident is reported, the Durham Regional Police Service investigates and with that information, decides if there is reasonable and probable cause to lay a criminal charge. If it is decided that a crime has been committed, an arrest will be made and the police will determine what form of release should take place.
Certain conditions may be attached to that release. If the police decide that the accused should not be released, he/she will be held for a bail hearing which involves a Crown Attorney usually in a courtroom setting. You may find out if someone has been held in custody or released on specific conditions after a bail hearing by calling the Crown Attorney's Office at 905-743-2700.
Basic Steps of a Court Case
The Criminal Code of Canada tells the police and the Crown Attorney how to proceed in different cases. Each case is looked at on an individual basis and the process may change depending on how serious the charges are. Some steps will always be the same, but we encourage you to speak with the services available to you to have the process for your specific case explained to you. The following are some of the basic steps of each court case:
First appearance court - Is the first appearance after the accused has been released or held after a bail hearing. Disclosure is given to the accused at this time and sometimes an accused may plead guilty at this court appearance. Most often the court will put the matter to a date about one month away to allow the accused to get a lawyer.
Set date court - You may also be told that a matter is adjourned (or put over) to be spoken to. This allows the accused to get a lawyer and put matters in order. This may happen over several months.
Pre Trial - This is a meeting between the accused's lawyer, the Crown Attorney and a judge to resolve things whenever possible. If the matter cannot be resolved, this usually results in a court date where the victim/witness will have to testify.
Trial - Each witness testifies as to their personal knowledge of the crime. The judge does not know anything about the matter except for the charges and must make a decision based on the evidence or information that he/she hears in court. The accused's lawyer is permitted to cross examine all witnesses.
Judgment - the judge, in order to convict a person, must believe beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty. In some more serious cases, a judge and a jury may be involved and in those cases there are more steps to the process. If an accused is found guilty, he may be sentenced then or the case may be adjourned for sentencing.
Sentencing - A sentence for the accused is up to the judge but both the Crown Attorney and the accused's lawyer may give the court information in order to help make a decision. Anyone who has been effected by a crime may complete a Victim Impact Statement which explains to the judge exactly how this crime has impacted their life.
A Crown Attorney is normally not assigned to a case until closer to the time of trial. Until a trial date is set, there may be a number of people who contact you to prepare your matter for court. Any time that you may have questions or concerns, you may meet with a Community Crown by calling (905) 4300-4166 for an appointment.
It is important you let us know of any changes in your address or phone number so that we can contact you about your case. If you do not have a telephone, you may leave the telephone number of a friend or a relative where a message may be left for you. It is important that each time you have a change of address that you notify the Crown Attorney's Office (905) 430-4150. Any information that you provide is treated confidentially and is only released when required by law. When the victim/witness is a child, the parents or legal guardians are expected to keep the Crown informed.
For more information, please contact the Victim Witness Assistance Program at 150 Bond Street East, 3rd Floor, Oshawa, Ontario, L1G 0A2 or call at 905-743-2790 or visit the Ministry of the Attorney General Office - Victim Services' website.