The Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service prosecutes charges laid under the Criminal Code and under Nova Scotia statutes such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Cases are handled by lawyers called Crown Attorneys. About 80 Crown Attorneys across the province handle about 40,000 cases each year in Nova Scotia.
Crown Attorneys are prosecutors. They are not investigators and do not lay criminal charges. Investigations are conducted by the police. The police decide whether to lay a charge. In some cases, Crown Attorneys are asked by police for advice on whether there is enough evidence to lay a charge. And, if so, whether there is a realistic prospect of conviction. But the police do not have to follow this advice. The decision to lay a charge rests with the police.
After a charge is laid by the police, it is the Crown Attorney who decides whether the charge should go to trial. The Crown Attorney makes that decision by reviewing all of the evidence and deciding if there is a realistic prospect of conviction. Even when there is a realistic prospect of conviction, a Crown Attorney may decide not to go to trial if he or she believes it is not in the public interest. For example, the accused person may be elderly with no criminal record, the offence may be minor or the victim may not want to go ahead. In a case like this, the Crown Attorney may decide it's not in the public interest to prosecute.
When a matter goes to trial, the Crown Attorney's role is to present the evidence fairly. The Crown Attorney argues for the proper verdict based upon the evidence. The Crown Attorney is not aiming to "win" a conviction.
When handling a prosecution, Crown Attorneys must represent the interests of the general public. The Crown Attorney is not the victim's lawyer. There are times when the Crown Attorney must disagree with the wishes of an individual victim.
Crown Attorneys have a responsibility to treat victims of crime with compassion and respect. Often, Crown Attorneys call upon Victims' Services workers of the Nova Scotia Department of Justice. Crown Attorneys or Victims' Services workers explain the prosecution process to the victim. They prepare victims for court appearances and keep them informed of progress on the case.
Sometimes a verdict, a sentence or a special order made by a judge will be appealed by either the Crown or the accused. An appeal is a request to a higher court to change a decision made by a lower court.
The Crown may appeal a verdict of not guilty. The Crown may also appeal a sentence it believes does not fit the crime. The defence may appeal a verdict of guilty. It may also appeal a sentence it believes is too harsh.