Multi-Site Survey of Victims of Crime and Criminal Justice Professionals across Canada: Summary of Defence Counsel Respondents
Defence counsel and other respondents were asked whether they are adequately informed of the Criminal Code provisions intended to benefit victims. As shown in Table 25, 40% of defence counsel believe that they are adequately informed.
Defence counsel who were interviewed also consider it their professional responsibility to remain current with legislative change. Among those surveyed who believe that they are not adequately informed, one-third said that professional organizations like the Canadian Bar Association and provincial law societies are the appropriate entities to provide them with information about changes to legislation. Other suggestions included information sessions or seminars, e-mail updates, and bulletins and briefs from the federal Department of Justice.
|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.
All respondent groups, except for probation and parole, were asked what, in their opinion, has been accomplished by the Criminal Code provisions intended to benefit victims. Respondents identified numerous outcomes that they believe have resulted from the Criminal Code provisions. However, a large proportion of each respondent group did not answer the question. Many defence counsel noted on the questionnaire that they did not know enough about the Criminal Code provisions to comment. As a result one quarter of defence counsel did not answer this question.
A number of respondents from all groups who were asked about the impact of the provisions said that they have provided a more balanced criminal justice system. About one-tenth of defence counsel noted a positive impact of the provisions for victims. The results discussed above are shown in Table 26.
|Victim Services (N=318)||Crown Attorneys (N=188)||Defence Counsel (N=185)||Judiciary (N=110)||Police (N=686)||Advocacy Groups (N=47)|
|Gives victims a voice or opportunity for input||11%||25%||12%||27%||9%||15%|
|More balanced criminal justice system||13%||19%||10%||24%||7%||4%|
|Victims more satisfied or informed||11%||11%||5%||16%||3%|
|Victim testimony or experience easier||--||9%||1%|
|Better protection of victims||3%||7%||12%||5%||11%|
|Victim impact statement positive||5%||3%||8%||2%|
|Don't know or No response||52%||28%||25%||23%||47%||35%|
Note: Respondents could give more than one answer, some totals sum to more than 100%.
However, there was considerable concern among defence counsel 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. These respondents (15%) worried that if expectations are not met, this could cause disappointment or resentment. Please see Table 27.
Another concern was the effect of the provisions on the ability of Crown Attorneys to make independent legal decisions in their capacity as representatives of the state. This possible curtailment of Crown Attorney discretion is an issue for defence counsel (17%). In interviews, several defence counsel expressed the concern that criminal justice professionals, particularly Crown Attorneys, have deviated from or abandoned their professional roles because of pressures to include the victim in the process.
Defence counsel also identified other concerns. Eleven percent 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). Defence counsel also believe that the provisions have eroded accused rights (10%), have achieved mainly political objectives (9%), and have reduced judicial independence (7%).
Some respondents in all categories said they believe that the Criminal Code provisions have accomplished little or nothing. Thirteen percent of defence counsel expressed this belief.
In summary, while all respondent groups included some comments on the limitations of the impact of the Criminal Code provisions, most reflections on the provisions 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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