When police are contacted regarding a domestic violence complaint, whether by the victim or by someone else, the police officers are required to do an investigation. If this investigation leads the police officers to reasonably believe that a person has committed a criminal offence against an intimate partner, then the officers must lay appropriate criminal charges.
An intimate partner may be a current or former partner, and applies to same or opposite sex partners and also applies to dating, common-law, or married partners.
These charges are laid by the police officers – not by the victims. The police officers must lay charges where reasonable and probable grounds exist, and may not make their decision to lay or not lay charges as a result of a victim’s request.
Once the charges are laid, a Crown Attorney will review the charges and determine if there is a reasonable prospect of conviction, and will also request further investigation to be done in some cases (interviewing further witnesses, taking photographs, seizing evidence, etc.).
If a victim wishes to talk with a Crown Attorney about the charges once they have been laid, s/he should contact the Victim Witness Assistance Program and request a meeting with the Crown Attorney.
As stated in the Crown Policy Manual for the Ministry of the Attorney General, “domestic violence is not a private family matter – domestic violence offences are criminal acts and should be prosecuted as vigorously as other serious criminal matters.”
Crown Attorneys have an obligation to prosecute domestic violence offences where there is a reasonable prospect of conviction and where it is in the public interest to do so. The Crown Policy Manual also indicates that “given the prevalence and danger of spouse/partner abuse and the dangers inherent in it, it will usually, although not always be, in the public interest to proceed with these prosecutions where there is a reasonable prospect of conviction.”
If a victim wishes to provide further information about the incident itself, s/he should contact the investigating officer to arrange to meet and provide this further information.
If a victim (or anyone else) wishes to report a breach of release conditions, he or she should call the police immediately to report this and request to speak to an officer – it does not need to be the investigating officer who is spoken to as he or she may not be on duty, and all officers will have access to prior reports and be able to deal with the matter.