The Role of Crown Prosecutors in Child Advocacy Centres in Canada

Lessons learned

Interviewees were asked about the best parts of working with a CAC, critical elements for a successful relationship, and any frustrations they had or changes they would make to their current relationship.

  • When asked what the best part of having a specific relationship with a CAC was, the most frequent response was that the CAC supported children, reduced their trauma, and made them more comfortable. Other common responses included: enhanced professional relationships and collaboration, specialized professionals, a single location for children’s services, improved evidence/testimony from children, better chance of a successful prosecution, assistance with logistics, easier for parents and families, increased quality of services, and ability for Crown to provide additional guidance to investigators.
  • Commonly observed changes to evidence and processes since the implementation of CAC were: better victim/family support, children are more prepared and comfortable, better quality interviews/statements, better investigations and earlier input on investigations, increased specialization of MDT members, more professional collaboration, less background work for the Crown required, and the use of facility dogs to improve children’s comfort.
  • When asked about the critical elements required to make the Crown/CAC relationship work, the most common response was communication among professionals. Understanding the players’ roles and consistency in who fills the roles were also expressed as critical. Other responses included enhanced training opportunities, accessibility of players, sustainable funding, trust, independence of Crown, and greater integration of Crown.
  • When asked what they would change about their current relationship with the CAC, most Crown responded with either “nothing” or desired increased integration with the CAC. However, several interviewees also indicated a desire for the CAC and MDT to have a better understanding of the roles and responsibilities of Crown; more specialized, forensic interviewers; and one Crown sought more distance in their Crown/CAC relationship.
  • Reported frustrations from the Crown about the relationship, again included a lack of understanding of the Crown’s roles and responsibilities, as well as how Crown understaffing did not allow them to take full advantage of CAC resources. There was also discussion of practical challenges including the lack of cell phones, and physical distance from the CAC. Several interviewees indicated that they had no frustrations.
“…any frustrations, any difficulties, any challenges are dealt with so early on that they don’t become big problems.”
  • Two clear themes emerged in Crown responses to potential downsides to the Crown/CAC relationship: the possibility of continued misunderstanding of the role of Crown and the related concern of awareness of the disclosure implications.  Several Crown also discussed a desire for expansion of CAC services and relationships.
“It strikes me as unfair that if you live in a place like [X], which is quite rural, that you should get a different level of service if something like that happens to you, than if you live in [big city].”