FAQ: Victims of a Crime

How do I have someone charged?

If you're the victim of a crime, call the police. The police have the authority to charge someone with a crime.

How do I get someone to stay away from me? Can I get a peace bond?

A peace bond is a court order requiring that a specific person or persons stay away from you, your family or your property. If you have reason to fear that a specific person may harm you, your family or your property, you can apply for a peace bond in a provincial court office. You must fill out an application there. A court date will be set for you and the person about whom you complained.

What is an undertaking?

This is a release order issued by the court. Generally, an undertaking is an order for an individual to appear in court at a later date with or without conditions attached.

What is a recognizance?

This is another type of release order with more restrictive conditions. Often, a pledge of money or personal property is required to guarantee compliance.

How do I change the conditions of an undertaking or recognizance?

Only the accused person, his or her lawyer, or a Crown Attorney can make an application to a judge to have the conditions of an undertaking or recognizance.

What do I do if someone breaks these conditions?

Call the police. Police will lay a charge if there is enough evidence to support it.

How can I get the charges dropped against someone?

Only the Crown Attorney can make the decision to drop charges.

If the case is going to trial, when will a Crown Attorney contact me?

Depending on the nature of the case, it may be well in advance of the court appearance or not until the day of the court appearance. The Crown Attorney will be in touch well before any court appearances when the case is major or complex or involves child witnesses or witnesses who have special needs.

Is what I tell the Crown Attorney confidential?

No. Anything that is relevant to the guilt or the innocence of the accused will be disclosed to the defence.

Is the Crown Attorney my lawyer?

No. The Crown Attorney represents the interests of the public.

Do I have to get a lawyer?

No. But you may choose to do so.

What's the name of a good lawyer?

The Public Prosecution Service does not make legal referrals. Most lawyers are listed in the telephone directory. The Nova Scotia Barristers' Society also operates a legal referral service.

If they caught him/her in the act why do we have to go through a trial?

The accused is always presumed innocent until proven guilty. When the accused pleads not guilty, the Crown must be able to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt for the accused to be convicted.

I gave a statement to police. Why do I have to testify in court?

Statements to the police are not usually admissible as evidence in court; you must testify.

What if I don't show up?

A warrant could be issued for your arrest.

Why do I have to go to court if I don't want this to go ahead?

It's not your decision. Only the Crown Attorney can decide whether the matter will proceed.

Will the defendant be present in the courtroom?

Yes, usually.

Will court be open to the public?

Yes, unless the judge orders otherwise and that is a rare occurrence.

Can the family of the accused be kept out of the courtroom while I testify?

The courtroom is open to the public. Unless the judge orders the court closed or excludes specific persons, anybody can be in the courtroom.

Will reporters be present?

Court is open to reporters. They may or may not be present depending on their interest. In certain circumstances, the judge has the authority to limit what the reporters may publicize.

I'm afraid. Can I have a police escort to and from Court?

This is not usually done. Speak to the Crown Attorney about your concerns. It may be possible to arrange this in some cases if the police agree.

Can I sit in during the evidence before and/or after I testify?

Normally, the defence or the Crown asks the judge to order the exclusion of witnesses from the courtroom before they testify. Whether you may attend after you testify is up to the judge. If there is no exclusion order, you may sit in. Ask the Crown Attorney for clarification in your case.

Do I get paid to testify?

Witnesses are entitled to a nominal fee (around $6) for every day spent in court plus mileage one way. An application form is available at the Crown Attorney's office.

I work full-time. Do I get paid my wages for coming to court? Who's going to pay me for the missed time from work?

Unfortunately, there is no allowance for this.

I live out of town. Are my travel, hotel and meal expenses covered? What about other expenses like child care, taxis to and from the court house and the airport?

These kinds of expenses are covered only upon pre-approval by the Crown Attorney.

I lost my subpoena. When is my court date?

Call the Crown Attorney's office or the courthouse. As long as you know the name of the accused individual, that information is easily attainable.

How can I find out who the Crown Attorney will be on any given date?

Call the Crown Attorney's office a few days before you are scheduled to appear.

How long is my court appearance going to take?

It depends on the nature of the case, the number of witnesses scheduled and the extent of your testimony. There may also be more than one matter booked for that time.

What should I wear?

Wear what is comfortable but your appearance should be clean, neat and conservative.

What happens if he/she is found not guilty?

The case is over unless the Crown appeals.

How do I appeal a verdict of not guilty?

Only the Crown can appeal a not guilty verdict and only when the judge has made a legal error in handling the case. Crown Attorneys routinely review cases involving a not guilty verdict to determine whether there are grounds for appeal. But you should know that these appeals are rare.

How did he/she get house arrest?

The judge decides the sentence. The judge considers the circumstances of the offence, the circumstances of the offender, the impact of the offence on the victim and what the law says before deciding on a sentence. A conditional sentence –- commonly referred to as house arrest –- is an option the judge can consider. Ask the Crown Attorney to explain the sentence and the basis for it.

Why was court adjourned?

There could be any number of reasons. Ask the Crown Attorney.

When is the next court date?

Ask the Crown Attorney.

What can I do if I disagree with the judge's decision?

Discuss the matter with the Crown Attorney.

What can I do if I disagree with the Crown Attorney's decision?

Ask the Crown Attorney to explain the decision. If you are still not satisfied, write a letter to the Public Prosecution Service.

How do I get the defendant to pay my damages?

During the investigation, the police may ask you to fill out a form requesting restitution. This form will be attached to the documentation given to the Crown Attorney. If the accused is convicted and certain circumstances apply, the Crown can request restitution. But you may also have the option to proceed on a civil basis. To do so, you may wish to speak to a lawyer.

For more information on how to access restitution go to: https://novascotia.ca/just/victim_Services/forms.asp.

Are there services available for victims of crime? How do I access these services?

Yes. The Victims' Services Division of the Nova Scotia Department of Justice is available to support victims of crime. You may contact Victims' Services at https://novascotia.ca/just/victim_Services/contact.asp.