Multi-Site Survey of Victims of Crime and Criminal Justice Professionals across Canada: Summary of Crown Attorney Respondents
- 12. Protection of Victim Safety
- 13. Information for Criminal Justice Professionals
- 14. Impact of Criminal Code Provisions
Findings from Crown Attorney Respondents (continued)
Crown Attorneys were asked in interviews about the importance of consulting the victim in the use of a restorative justice approach. Almost all respondents believe that such consultation is indeed important. They believe that in order for restorative justice to adequately address victims' needs, victims should consent to and participate in the process, and that there is less chance of success if such consultation does not occur. Additionally, Crown Attorneys expressed concern in interviews that restorative justice may not always adequately protect victims and address their interests. This concern, as already noted in Table 24 above, was also evident from the quantitative data, which showed that 18% of Crown Attorneys gave inadequate protection of victims as the reason for Crown non-participation in a restorative justice process. In interviews, Crown Attorneys reiterated that restorative justice should not be used for violent offences where there are real safety concerns or power imbalances between victim and accused because of the potential for victims in such cases to be pressured or intimidated into participating. From the perspective of these interviewees, the ability of restorative approaches to adequately protect victims depends on the structure of individual programs, on the existence of a proper support structure to guarantee victim safety, and on the facilitator's training.
As shown in Table 27, almost three-quarters of Crown Attorneys believe that they are adequately informed of the Criminal Code provisions intended to benefit victims.
|Victim Services (N=318)||Crown Attorneys (N=188)||Defence Counsel (N=185)||Police (N=686)|
Note: Some columns to sum to more than 100% due to rounding.
In interviews, Crown Attorneys mentioned receiving copies of the new provisions as well as summaries of changes as they are implemented or occasionally attending seminars, conferences, and training. In their view, this is usually sufficient to keep them well informed; several pointed out that, in any case, it is their professional obligation to remain up to date on changes to the law. However, a few said that it is sometimes difficult to stay current with the pace of legislative change due to the frequency with which such changes have been made in recent years and due to workload and time constraints. Nevertheless, Crown Attorneys who believe they are not adequately informed had few suggestions for measures to improve the situation. They recommended information sessions or seminars, bulletins, briefs, guidelines and reference sheets from the federal Department of Justice.
Crown Attorneys were asked what, in their opinion, has been accomplished by the Criminal Code provisions intended to benefit victims. About one-third of Crown Attorneys did not feel able to answer this question.
When asked about the impact of the provisions a number of Crown Attorneys responded that they have provided a more balanced criminal justice system; and that the rights of victims have been formally recognized within the criminal justice system through the Criminal Code provisions and that, as a result, there is greater awareness of and sensitivity to needs of victims on the part of judges and prosecutors. The increased profile of the victim within the system, in turn, has led to enhanced services for victims, a more approachable and personal system that responds better to victims' needs, and victims who are more informed about the criminal justice process and the status of their own case.
They also mentioned that the provisions have given victims a voice in the system. About one-quarter of Crown Attorneys cited this as an accomplishment of the Criminal Code provisions. Several Crown Attorneys commented in their interviews that the Criminal Code provisions give victims a voice in the process and an opportunity to provide input, particularly through victim impact statements. However, several others worried that the victim impact statement, as an unintended consequence, may have created the false impression among some victims that they are entitled to make sentencing recommendations. Others mentioned the possibility of defence counsel cross-examination on the victim impact statement and said that such statements can make the victim more vulnerable if they conflict with other evidence or the victim's earlier statements. About 5% of Crown Attorneys surveyed mentioned negative effects of the victim impact statement.
Some Crown Attorneys also believe that victims are now more satisfied with the criminal justice system. In the survey, 11% of Crown Attorneys listed this as an impact of the Criminal Code provisions. In interviews, Crown Attorneys explained further that the provisions have increased victim confidence in the criminal justice system and made victims more willing to participate in it. In particular, several Crown Attorneys said that the provisions have made it easier for victims to report crimes and to testify in court. In addition, by better protecting victims, the legislation has created more reliable witnesses who are willing to provide open and complete testimony in court. In the survey, 7% of Crown Attorneys mentioned better protection of victims, and 9% of Crown Attorneys mentioned making testimony easier as accomplishments of the Criminal Code provisions.
The results discussed above are shown in Table 28.
While these results show that many Crown Attorneys believe that the legislative changes have improved the experience of victims of crime in the criminal justice system, others cautioned that it is impossible to accommodate everything that victims want in an adversarial system. There was concern among Crown Attorneys that the provisions have inadvertently created unrealistic expectations on the part of some victims about both the level of their involvement and how that involvement might affect any decisions made. 9% of Crown Attorneys expressed concern that if expectations are not met, this could cause disappointment or resentment.
Nine percent of Crown Attorneys also commented on the delays in the process caused by the provisions (e.g., the time required to consult with victims or the adjournments needed to inform victims of victim impact statements). Twelve percent of Crown said they believe that the Criminal Code provisions have accomplished little or nothing. Results are given in Table 29.
In summary, while Crown Attorneys commented on the limitations of the impact of the Criminal Code provisions, most comments revealed positive accomplishments. The two biggest accomplishments are the creation of a more balanced criminal justice system through increased awareness of the concerns and interests of victims and the provision of more formal mechanisms to ensure that the victims have opportunities to participate and have a voice in the system.
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