Multi-Site Survey of Victims of Crime and Criminal Justice Professionals across Canada : Summary of Victim Services Providers and Victim Advocacy Group Respondents

Appendix A: Interview Guide for Victim Services and Community Organizations

Key informant interview guide - Victim services and community organizations

(Those that directly provide services to victims)

The Department of Justice Canada has recently launched a multi-site study of victims of crime and criminal justice professionals. The main objectives of this study are:

  • To provide information on the use and awareness of recent reforms with respect to victims of crime in the criminal justice system
  • To identify any impediments to the implementation of recent reforms by criminal justice professionals
  • To learn what information is provided to victims throughout the criminal justice process
  • To gain a better understanding of the experiences of victims of crime in the criminal justice system and with various victim services.

The following questions address issues relating to the role of the victim in the criminal justice system, victim services, and the implementation of recent reforms to assist victims of crime through the criminal justice process.

We realize that you may not have the personal knowledge required to answer some of the questions. Please let us know, if you do not feel that you can answer a question.

Background Information

  • 1. How would you describe your organization? (e.g., court-based services, police-based services, community-based services, system-based services, specialized services for domestic violence, sexual assaults, or children)?
  • 2. Could you please tell me about the services that your organization generally provides to victims? (e.g. crisis support, information to victims, liaise with Crown, court preparation, court accompaniment, counselling, referrals) In your opinion, what aspects of these services are most beneficial to victims and why?

The Role of the Victim

  • 3. In your opinion, what role should the victim have in the criminal justice system? In particular, please consider bail decisions, plea negotiations, and sentencing.

Victim Services

  • 4. What other victim services are currently available in your community for victims of crime? (e.g., court-based services, police-based services, community-based services, system-based services, specialized services)?
  • 5. What do you think is the best way to inform victims of these services? (e.g., pamphlets, mail, phone calls, in person)
  • 6. What are the challenges, if any, faced by victims of crime in accessing victim services? (PROMPT: geographic location - e.g. urban vs. rural; language barriers; physical barriers - e.g. access to persons with disabilities; financial barriers; services not culturally sensitive; services do not respond to needs of both genders). In your opinion, what changes could be made to increase accessibility of services for victims of crime?
  • 7. In general, do you think that victims are provided with adequate information on:
    • the progress of investigation
    • outcomes of bail decisions
    • conditions of release
    • date and location of court proceedings
    • charges laid
    • charges dropped
    • victim impact statements
    • restitution
    • the ultimate outcome of the case
    • the criminal justice process
    • alternative processes, such as diversion or restorative justice
    • accused rights
    • victim services
    • other community support services?

    For each of the above, who should provide victims of crime with this type of information?

  • 8. What, if anything, can be done to improve the information given to victims? Are there any difficulties in providing victims of crime with the information that they require? Please explain.
  • 9. Based on your experience, what kind of information do you think victims of crime most want to receive and why?
  • 10. Please describe the extent to which your organization works together or shares information with other victim services or community organizations, the police, and/or the Crown.

Recent Reforms Relating to Victims of Crime

As you may know, a number of legislative changes at the federal level have been made relating to victims of crime and their participation in the criminal justice system (victim surcharge, victim impact statements, consideration of victim safety in bail decisions, assistance to victims testifying at trial, publication bans, etc.). The following questions address issues relating to the implementation of these provisions.

  • 11. [If applicable] In your opinion, are there any difficulties notifying victims about bail determinations?
  • 12. Do you believe that victims' safety is generally considered in the decision about bail and conditions on release? If no, what are the obstacles to the consideration of victim safety?
  • 13. There are several legal provisions to assist victims with testifying. For the following, please explain whether you think there are any obstacles to their use.
    • Publication bans in cases other than sexual assault
    • Exclusion of the public from a trial
    • Use of a screen or closed-circuit television for testimony of a complainant/witness (who is under 18 years of age or has a mental or physical disability)
    • Use of pre-trial videotaped testimony of a complainant/witness (who is under 18 years of age or has a mental or physical disability)
    • Use of a support person to accompany a victim/witness to court (who is under 14 years of age or has a mental or physical disability)

Section 486 (2.3) of the Criminal Code states that, unless required by "the proper administration of justice" a self-represented accused cannot cross-examine a child witness (under 18 years of age). This section is applicable to proceedings where an accused is charged with a sexual offence, a sexual assault under sections 271, 272, and 273, or where violence against the victim is "alleged to have been used, threatened, or attempted."

  • 14. Do you feel that s. 486 (2.3) of the Criminal Code should be expanded to include other victims/witnesses and/or other types of offences? Please explain.
  • 15. [If applicable] How do you help victims prepare to testify in court? What kind of assistance do you provide?
  • 16. Based on your experience, how do victims find the experience of testifying in court?
  • 17. Do you have any suggestions for additional ways to help victims with testifying?

Questions 18-23 concern victim impact statements. If you have experience with victim impact statements at both sentencing and parole hearings, please answer for each separately.

  • 18. Based on your experience, do victims usually submit victim impact statements? What about in serious cases? What are the most common methods for submitting a victim impact statement (written statement only, victim reads statement, Crown read statement, other)?
  • 19. Do you think that most victims are made aware of victim impact statements? If not, what might be done to inform victims of their opportunity to give victim impact statements?
  • 20. What do you think is the best way to inform victims about victim impact statements? (e.g., pamphlets, mail, phone calls, in-person) When do you think is the best time to tell victims about victim impact statements? (e.g., as soon as possible after the crime, after someone is arrested and charged, just before trial is scheduled to commence, other)
  • 21. Do you assist victims with victim impact statements? What kind of assistance do you provide? (e.g., provide forms, help with drafting the statement, advice on what to include in the statement, advice on how to present the statement to the court)
  • 22. In your opinion, what are the benefits of victim impact statements for victims? Are there unique benefits to reading the victim impact statement?
  • 23. Are there any obstacles to the use of victim impact statements? (e.g., difficulties in preparing, submitting, or delivering the statement) If yes, please explain. How can these best be addressed?
  • 24. Based on your experience, do victims, who are eligible, usually ask for restitution? Are there any obstacles to the use of restitution? If yes, please explain. How can these be addressed?
  • 25. Based on your experience, is the victim surcharge waived more often than it should be?
  • 26. In your opinion, in what types of cases would a conditional sentence be appropriate? Do you think that victims' safety is generally considered in a decision to impose a conditional sentence of imprisonment? If not, what are the obstacles to the consideration of victim safety?

Restorative Justice

Restorative justice considers the wrong done to a person as well as the wrong done to the community. Restorative justice programs involve the victim(s) or a representative, the offender(s), and community representatives. The offender is required to accept responsibility for the crime and take steps to repair the harm he or she has caused.

  • 27. Have you participated in a restorative justice approach? Why or why not? At what stage in the process have you participated in restorative justice? (e.g., pre-charge, sentencing, other)
  • 28. Are victims involved in the process? If so, how?
  • 29. In what kinds of cases do you think that the restorative approach would be most effective? Do you consider it important to consult the victim in the use of a restorative approach? Why or why not? Do you think that restorative approaches adequately protect victims and address their interests? Please explain.

Conclusion

  • 30. Do you think that victim services workers are adequately informed of the provisions of the Criminal Code intended to benefit victims? If no, what can be done to better inform victim services workers?
  • 31. What has been accomplished by the Criminal Code provisions intended to benefit victims? Have there been any unintended consequences to these provisions? Please explain.
  • 32. Do you have any suggestions of other advocacy groups or criminal justice professionals who you think should be interviewed for this study?
  • 33. Do you have any other comments?

Thank you for your participation

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