Multi-Site Survey of Victims of Crime and Criminal Justice Professionals across Canada: Summary of Crown Attorney Respondents
KEY INFORMANT INTERVIEW GUIDE FOR CROWN ATTORNEYS
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 and the Crown in the criminal justice system, victim services, and the implementation of recent reforms to assist victims of crime through the criminal justice process.
The role of the victim
- 1. In your opinion, what role should the victim have in the criminal justice system? In particular, please consider bail decisions, plea negotiations, and sentencing.
The Crown's role
- 2. In general, how would you describe the Crown's responsibility toward victims?
- 3. During a typical case, do you have sufficient opportunity to meet with victims? If time were not an issue, what else should the Crown do to further assist victims?
- 4. What victim services are currently available in your community for victims of crime? (e.g., police-based victim services, crown-based victim services, specialized victim services for domestic violence, sexual assaults, or children)
- 5. 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
- the ultimate outcome of the case
- the criminal justice process
- alternative processes, such as diversion and 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?
- 6. 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.
- 7. Are victim/witness assistants available to work with Crown attorneys in your office?
- 8. Please describe the extent to which the Crown and victim services work together or share information.
Recent reforms relating to victims of crimeAs 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.
- 9. How do you address the victims' safety concerns with respect to bail determinations? Do you generally call the victim as a witness? If no, why not? Where a bail hearing is held, do you generally request specific conditions to address the victim's safety? Do judges usually grant these conditions?
- 10. Do you generally request publication bans in cases other than sexual offences? If yes, in what types of offences? If no, why not? Do judges usually grant these requests?
- 11. Do you generally request the use of a screen or closed-circuit television for testimony of a young victim/witness or a victim/witness with a mental or physical disability? If no, why not? Do judges usually grant these requests? Are there any obstacles to the use of this provision? If yes, please explain. How can these best be addressed?
- 12. Do you generally request the use of pre-trial videotaped testimony of a young victim/witness or a victim/witness with a mental or physical disability? If no, why not? Do judges usually grant these requests? Are there any obstacles to the use of pre-trial videotape of testimony in these circumstances? If yes, please explain. How can these best be addressed?
- 13. Are there any alternatives to the use of screens, closed-circuit television, or pre-trial video-taped testimony that you believe would assist victims/witnesses in testifying?
- 14. Do you generally request that a support person be permitted to accompany a young victim/witness or a victim/witness with a mental or physical disability to court? If no, why not? Do judges usually grant these requests? Are there any obstacles to the use of support persons? If yes, please explain. How can these best be addressed?
- 15. Have you ever requested the exclusion of the public from a trial? If yes, in what circumstances? Do judges usually grant these requests?
"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."
- 16. Have you ever had a case where Section 486 (2.3) applied? If yes, did you request that counsel be appointed for the self-represented accused for the purpose of cross-examination of a victim/witness? If no, why not?
- 17. 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.
- 18. Based on your experience, do victims usually submit victim impact statements? What are the most common methods for submitting a victim impact statement (written statement only, victim reads statement, Crown read statement, other)?
- 19. When is the best time for the Crown to receive victim impact statements?
- 20. When a victim impact statement is submitted, do you generally remind the judge to consider it?
- 21. Have you ever had a case where the defence counsel or the accused wanted to cross-examine the victim on their victim impact statement either during the trial or during sentencing? If yes, did the judge allow it?
- 22. How would you describe the effect of a victim impact statement on the sentencing of the accused?
- 23. If no impact statement is submitted, do you contact the victim about whether he/she wants to submit a victim impact statement? Do judges generally ask whether the victim is aware of the opportunity to prepare and submit a victim impact statement?
- 24. Are there any obstacles to the use of the victim impact statement? Please explain.
- 25. Do you generally request, when appropriate, that restitution be paid to a victim? If no, why not? What considerations motivate your decision to request restitution (e.g., offender's ability to pay, victim concerns, etc.)? Do judges usually grant requests for restitution?
- 26. Is restitution enforcement a concern or a problem? Why?
- 27. Based on your experience, is the victim surcharge waived more often than it should be? Do judges generally waive the surcharge without a request from the offender? Do you generally challenge an application by an accused to waive the surcharge?
- 28. In what circumstances do you think a conditional sentence is appropriate? Do you generally ask that conditions for the victim's safety be placed on the offender in conditional sentences?
Restorative justiceRestorative 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.
- 29. Have you used a restorative justice approach? Why or why not? At what stage in the process have you used restorative justice? (e.g., pre-charge, sentencing, other)
- 30. How are victims involved in the process?
- 31. 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.
- 32. Do you think that Crown attorneys are adequately informed of the provisions of the Criminal Code intended to benefit victims? If no, what can be done to better inform Crown attorneys?
- 33. What has been accomplished by the Criminal Code provisions intended to benefit victims? Have there been any unintended consequences to these provisions? Please explain.
- 34. Do you have any other comments?
Thank you for your participation
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