Multi-Site Survey of Victims of Crime and Criminal Justice Professionals across Canada: Summary of Probation Officer, Corrections, and Parole Board Respondents

Introduction

The Multi-Site Survey of Victims of Crime and Criminal Justice Professionals was conducted in 2002 under the direction of the Policy Centre for Victim Issues (PCVI) of the Department of Justice Canada in collaboration with the Research and Statistics Division. The PCVI implements the Victims of Crime Initiative which, through the Victims Fund, legislative reform, research, consultations and communication activities, works to increase the confidence of victims in the criminal justice system and responds to the needs of victims of crime as they relate to the Department of Justice.

The purpose of the Multi-Site Survey of Victims of Crime and Criminal Justice Professionals is to gather information on a wide range of issues concerning the criminal justice system as it pertains to victims and criminal justice professionals, with a particular emphasis on recent Criminal Code provisions, specifically Bill C-79, which was introduced in 1999. This legislation amended the Criminal Code in several areas, such as:

  • giving victims the right to read their victim impact statement at the time of sentencing if they wish to do so;
  • requiring the judge to inquire before sentencing whether the victim has been informed of the opportunity to give a victim impact statement;
  • requiring that all offenders pay a victim surcharge of 15% where a fine is imposed or a fixed amount of $50 or $100 for summary or indictable offences, respectively, and can be increased by the judge (except where the offender can demonstrate undue hardship)
  • clarifying the application of publication bans and providing a discretion to order, in appropriate circumstances, a publication ban on information that could disclose the identity of victims as witnesses.
  • expanding the protection of victims and witnesses under the age of 18 years from cross-examination by a self-represented accused in sexual and personal violence offences
  • allowing any victim or witness with a mental or physical disability to be accompanied by a support person while giving evidence
  • ensuring that the safety of victims and witnesses are taken into consideration in judicial interim release determinations.

To a more limited extent, the survey also explored perceptions regarding amendments recently made to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide victims with the opportunity to present prepared victim statements at parole board hearings.

Findings from this study will generate evidence to inform future legislative reforms and policy changes by providing insight on the use and awareness of recent reforms by criminal justice professionals as they pertain to victims of crime, the nature of information provided to victims during the criminal justice process, victims' experiences with the legal provisions and other services that are intended to benefit them throughout the criminal justice process, and barriers to the implementation of recent reforms for criminal justice professionals.

Given the breadth of findings in the final report the PCVI has prepared seven summary reports based on respondent groups in the survey[1]. This report is a summary of the findings from probation officers, corrections and parole board respondents who participated in the study. Additional summaries are available that speak to the findings of Police respondents, Crown Attorney respondents, Defence Counsel respondents, Judiciary respondents, Victim Services Provider respondents, Victim Advocacy Group respondents and Victims of Crime.

Methodology

The multi-site survey was conducted in 16 sites within the 10 provinces in Canada; the territories were not included in this study. The 16 sites represent five regions: Atlantic (Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador), Quebec, Ontario, Prairie (Saskatchewan and Manitoba), and Western (British Columbia and Alberta). Each region included at least three sites of varying size (small, medium, and large), with consideration of diversity in geography (rural, urban, northern) and population (especially cultural and linguistic). A subcommittee of the Federal Provincial Territorial Working Group (FPTWG) on Victims of Crime guided the research team and recommended some of the locations selected for site visits.

Data for this study came from criminal justice professionals and victims of crime. A total of 112 victims of crime participated in in-depth interviews, which were conducted in order to obtain detailed data on each individual victim's experience in the criminal justice system. Victim services providers assisted in contacting victims and obtaining their consent to participate in the study, which may have introduced selection bias into the research.

Criminal justice professionals who participated in the study were from 10 different groups: judges, Crown Attorneys, defence counsel, police, victim services providers, victim advocacy groups, probation officers, and three types of parole representatives (from the National Parole Board [NPB], Correctional Service Canada [CSC], and the provincial parole boards in Quebec, Ontario, and British Columbia). They participated through either self-administered questionnaires or interviews. Relying on two forms of data collection allowed for the most complete method of gathering information on the research questions. The use of self-administered questionnaires ensured that a large proportion of the criminal justice professionals in each site could participate, while the use of interviews meant that more in-depth, qualitative data could also be obtained.

TABLE 1: INTERVIEWS WITH CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROFESSIONALS
Respondent Category: Large Sites Medium Sites Small Sites Total
Victim services 43 19 7 69
Police 18 8 12 38
Crown Attorneys 18 8 11 37
Judiciary 17 6 8 31
Defence counsel 20 4 15 39
Total 116 45 53 214

As Table 1 above shows, interviews were conducted with 214 criminal justice professionals from five respondent groups: victim services providers; police; Crown Attorneys; judiciary; and defence counsel. Interview results were captured as part of the quantitative data corresponding to that generated by the self-administered surveys. Self-administered questionnaires were also distributed to all 10 respondent groups. A total of 1,664 criminal justice professionals completed the self-administered questionnaire. Overall (in interviews and self-administered questionnaires), a total of 1,878 criminal justice professionals participated in this survey.

TABLE 2: RESPONDENTS WHO COMPLETED SELF-ADMINISTERED QUESTIONNAIRES BY SITE SIZE
Respondent Group: Large Sites Medium Sites Small Sites Total Self-completed Questionnaires
Victim services 180 39 30 249
Police 393 141 114 648
Crown Attorneys 123 25 3 151
Judiciary 58 13 8 79
Defence counsel 122 15 9 146
Advocacy groups 37 4 6 47
Probation 161 26 19 206
Total 1,074 263 189 1,526


TABLE 3: PROBATION AND PAROLE RESPONDENTS WHO COMPLETED SELF-ADMINISTERED QUESTIONNAIRES
Respondent Group: Total Number of Respondents
National Parole Board 85
Provincial Parole Board 22
Correctional Service Canada 29
Total 136

As indicated in Tables 2 and 3, a total of 206 probation respondents completed self-administered questionnaires. In addition, the survey included 85 National Parole Board officers, 22 Provincial Parole Board officers, as well as 29 Correctional Service Canada personnel. Findings from their questionnaires are presented below (see appendix a for interview guides).


[1] The full report and copies of the other summaries are available at: http://justice.canada.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/cj-jp/victim/index.html. For copies contact the Policy Centre for Victim Issues, 284 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0H8.

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