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Victims in the Criminal Justice Process: Roles, Rights and Resources

Victims of crime

Victims have an important role throughout the criminal justice system that includes reporting the crime, testifying at trial and presenting a victim impact statement. The roles of victims are supported by rights to information, participation, protection and to seek restitution. There are also resources available to victims that can assist them through the process.

Criminal Justice Process Chart.png

Source: Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario


Time of Crime

Police duties include investigating crimes and arresting suspects. Where there are reasonable grounds, the police can lay criminal charges.

Not every person charged with a criminal offence will be arrested. An accused person who is taken into custody and held for court may be released on bail. A judge decides whether to release the accused at a bail hearing. The judge must consider any evidence submitted about the need to ensure the safety or security of any victim or witness to the offence.

Tip: Keep records of damages, losses and expenses related to the crime in case restitution is ordered by the court.

  • Peace Bonds

    Every victim has the right to have reasonable and necessary measures taken by the appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system to protect the victim from intimidation and retaliation. If you have a reasonable fear that someone is going to harm you, your children or your property you can ask the court for a peace bond. A peace bond is a court order that requires another person to "keep the peace" for a certain amount of time and obey any other conditions ordered. A peace bond does not cost anything, and you do not need a lawyer to get one. Other orders under the Criminal Code of Canada include Protection Orders, Emergency Protection Orders, Restraining Orders, and No Contract conditions.

  • Bail Hearing

    A bail hearing is a court hearing where a judge decides whether to release the accused person before the case is dealt with in court. The judge must consider any evidence submitted about the need to ensure the safety or security of any victim or witness to the offence. If the judge decides to release the accused person, there may be conditions attached. These might include requiring the accused to: report to authorities; remain in the jurisdiction; not communicate in any way with any victim or witness; and, abide by other conditions considered necessary for the safety and security of victims or witnesses. Victims can get information about release conditions imposed on an accused person and may request a copy of the bail order.


All criminal cases begin in provincial court and most are dealt with there. In Canadian law, crimes are dealt with as wrongs against society as a whole, not simply as private matters between two people, even though individuals often suffer injury or damage. A Crown prosecutor is therefore not the victim's lawyer, but is acting on behalf of all members of the public.

Victims may be called as witnesses at the preliminary inquiry and at trial. Victims may also present a statement at the time of sentencing

  • Plea Bargain

    A plea bargain is an agreement by the accused to plead guilty in return for the Crown agreeing to take or refrain from taking a particular course of action (Law Reform Commission of Canada. 1989, p. 3–1). When a plea bargain is presented to the court, the court shall ask the Crown if reasonable steps were taken to inform the victim of a plea agreement for murder or serious personal injury offences, or to make the same provision on request for an offence where imprisonment of five years or more is possible. If any victim was not informed of the agreement before the plea of guilty was accepted, the prosecutor shall, as soon as feasible, take reasonable steps to inform the victim of the agreement and the acceptance of the plea.

  • Preliminary Inquiry

    At the preliminary inquiry, the Crown prosecutor presents critical elements of the evidence against the accused. Witnesses may be called, and victims may have to give evidence at this time. The court must consider the security of the victim or witness when determining whether to provide a third party record to the accused. Third party records are documents or other records that have personal information about the victim or another witness, are in the possession of someone other than the Crown or the defence, and include information that the victim could reasonably expect to be kept private, such as medical records. Victims of sexual assault may have legal representation on production hearings concerning access to their third party records.

  • Publication Ban

    Judges have a general power to exclude the public from criminal proceedings in very limited but appropriate circumstances. The Criminal Code specifically states that such circumstances include safeguarding the interests of witnesses under the age of 18 in all proceedings. In addition, the judge may order the exclusion of some or all members of the public from the courtroom to protect adult victims and witnesses who may be vulnerable due to their age, relationship with the offender, the nature of the offence or other factors.

  • Testimonial aids for witnesses

    Testimonial aids can include screens which prevent a witness from seeing the accused, the ability to provide testimony via closed-circuit television, the use of video-recorded evidence, the use of a voice amplifier, and the ability to have a support person present and close to the witness in the courtroom.

  • Victim Impact Statement

    At sentencing, every victim has the right to present a victim impact statement to the appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system and to have it considered. The victim impact statement describes the harm done to or loss suffered by the victim of the offence. A court can also receive a Community Impact Statement in fraud cases that would describe the losses suffered as a result of the fraud perpetrated against a particular community, such as a neighbourhood, an association or a seniors’ group.

  • Restitution Orders

    Every victim has the right to have the court consider making a restitution order against the offender. Restitution orders are orders requiring an offender to pay money directly to a victim to help cover the victim's losses or damage to property caused by the crime. Restitution is intended to make up at least partially for harm done to a victim or community, and to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders and an acknowledgment of the harm done to victims and the community. The sentencing judge will only make a restitution order in appropriate cases, taking into account the sentencing principles and the facts of the individual case. Restitution will not be ordered in all cases where there is monetary loss or damages. The judge must consider whether a restitution order should be included in the sentence. The ability of the offender to pay a restitution order will be a consideration. The amount of the restitution order must be readily ascertainable.

  • Victim Surcharge

    Upon conviction, a victim surcharge is added to any sentence. This surcharge is paid into provincial and territorial assistance funds to develop and provide programs, services and assistance to victims of crime.

Prison and Parole

Offenders who receive sentences of two years or more enter the federal corrections and conditional release system. Victims of these offenders can register with Correctional Services Canada or the Parole Board of Canada to receive information about correctional services and the offender.

Correctional Services Canada (CSC) carries out sentences imposed by courts through and assists in the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community.

The Parole Board of Canada (PBC) is an independent administrative tribunal that has exclusive authority under to grant, deny, cancel, terminate or revoke day parole and full parole.

  • Attending a Parole Hearing

    Victims and other observers may attend PBC hearings. Registered victims may present a victim statement at the hearing. If you are a victim, a Parole Board of Canada Regional Communications Officer (RCO) will contact you a few days before to set a time to meet you at the main entrance of the institution. The RCO will go over the details of what to expect at the hearing, and answer any last-minute questions you may have. If you arrive at the institution before the RCO, a CSC staff member will let you know where to wait.

  • Victim Statement

    Registered victims may also provide a victim statement and any other additional information to the PBC and CSC that will be considered if an offender applies for early release or in relation to what programs might help an offender's rehabilitation.

  • Information about the offender

    Registered victims can get information about an offender's name, the offence they were convicted for, the starting date and length of their sentence, and eligibility and review dates for different forms of conditional release. Additional information may be made available on request after the PBC or CSC balances the victim's interest against the offender's right to privacy. The information that can be disclosed based on this test is as follows:

    • The offender’s age and location.
    • A summary of the reasons for transfers
    • Serious disciplinary offences committed by the offender;
    • Serious disciplinary offences committed by the offender;
    • The date of temporary absences, work releases, parole or statutory releases and the conditions of supervised releases;
    • The destination of the offender on conditional release and whether the offender will be in the vicinity of the victim;
    • The date of any hearing on detaining the offender after the statutory release date;
    • Whether the offender is in custody and, if not, the reason why the offender is not in custody;
    • The reason why an offender has waived his or her right to a PBC hearing
    • Whether the offender has appealed a decision of the PBC under section 147 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) and the outcome of the appeal.


Time of crime


    Victims have the right to request information about their rights as victims, the criminal justice system and their role in it, the services and programs available to them, and the status and outcome of the investigation into the offence.


    Every victim has the right to have their security considered by appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system.



    Every victim has the right to request information about the location of proceedings in relation to the offence, when they will take place and their progress and outcome.


    Every victim has the right to request that their identity be protected if they are a complainant to the offence or a witness in proceedings relating to the offence. Every victim also has the right to request testimonial aids when appearing as a witness in proceedings relating to the offence.


    Every victim also has the right to present a victim impact statement


    and to have the court consider making a restitution order against the offender. If restitution is ordered by is not paid, victims have the right to have the order entered as a civil court judgement.

Prison and Parole


    Every victim has the right, on request, to information about reviews relating to the offender’s conditional release and the timing and conditions of that release.


    Every victim has the right to have their security considered by appropriate authorities in the criminal justice system.


    Registered victims may also submit and/or present a victim statement to CSC and PBC to be considered in conditional release decisions.


Time of crime

  • Community services related to crime

    Depending on the crime, victims may need a variety of services. The services of community-based victim services vary. Some serve a specific clientele, such as victims of family and sexual violence, ethno-specific and diverse communities and child victims. Police may provide information, support, and assistance and have coordinators and trained volunteers. In many cases, police may refer the victim to services in the community.

    The Policy Centre for Victims Issues provides an on-line directory of victim services that allows you to filter your search by postal code, type of victimization and type of service or service provider name.


Prison and Parole

  • Victim services while federal offenders serve their sentences

    Correctional Services Canada, Victim Services has dedicated Victim Services Officers who register victims, provide registered victim information about the offender and receive victim statements.

    Parole Board of Canada, Victims Services provides services to victims including certain information about the offender, notification of when a parole hearing is scheduled for the offender. Victims may also present a victim statement at the hearing.

    National Office for Victims is a central resource that offers information to victims, and also provides input on policy and legislative initiatives, education about victims' issues for members of the criminal justice system, and networking and support to the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada.

    Victims fund for attending a Parole Hearing offers financial assistance to registered victims who wish to attend hearings for the offender who harmed them in order to help victims participate more fully in the criminal justice system.