Criminal Court Process and Family Violence & Abuse

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

This section describes what happens when an abuser is charged with a criminal offence. It explains the legal process and who can provide support during this difficult process.

How it starts

After the police investigate, they give their report to Crown counsel who act for the whole community. Crown counsel’s job is to decide whether to charge someone and to present the case against the accused person in court. Only Crown counsel can decide whether or not to charge someone. A person who is charged with a crime is referred to as “the accused” until the judge decides whether he or she is guilty or not.

If your abuser is going through a criminal court process, it is a good idea to have support. Ask a victim services worker or trusted friend to go with you to interviews with the police or Crown counsel, and to court.

The first court appearance

At the first court appearance, the accused can plead guilty or not guilty. If the plea is guilty, there will not be a trial. Instead, either that day or on a later day, the judge will decide the sentence. If the plea is not guilty, there will be a trial at a later date.

If the accused was in jail before the first court date, the judge may let him or her out on bail until the trial starts. The judge will order the accused to follow the bail conditions, such as not contacting you, also known as a no contact order.

It is important that you know when the accused gets out of jail and what the bail conditions are. Ask for a copy of the bail conditions and no contact order from Crown counsel. Keep these with you at all times. If you need help with this,ask a victim services worker or call VictimLink BCtoll free at 1.800.563.0808.

If the accused disobeys or breaches the bail conditions or the no contact order, call the police. The accused can be arrested and charged with breach of bail or breach of an order.

What is my role?

Do I have to go court?

You do not have to go to the first court date or any other, unless you want to or if you receive a subpoena to appear as a witness. If you receive a subpoena you must go to the trial to answer questions about what happened.

For more information about being a witness in court, speak to a victim services worker.

Victim impact statement

Crown counsel may ask you to fill out a victim impact statement to explain how the assault or harassment has affected you and your children. This is used to recommend to the judge the kind of sentence your partner should get if convicted.

If Crown counsel does not talk to you about a victim impact statement, ask a victim services worker about it.

What happens in court

At a trial, Crown counsel presents evidence to show that the criminal offence happened, which means you may be called as a witness. You will be asked your name and address.

If you do not want to give your address out loud in court, tell Crown counsel before the trial begins. The defense lawyer may question you. This is called being cross-examined. Usually, the accused testifies, but not always. After the judge has listened to both Crown counsel and the defense lawyer, he or she makes a decision.

If the accused is found not guilty the person will not be sentenced. If this decision concerns or frightens you, talk to a victim services worker about a safety plan and a protection order. If the accused is found guilty the judge will decide on a sentence.


A conditional discharge means the judge sets conditions that the person must follow. If conditions are followed, the person will not have a criminal record. A suspended sentence means the judge puts the person on probation with conditions. Even if the person follows the conditions, they will have criminal records.

If the person does not follow the conditions, he or she can be brought back to court to be sentenced for breaching probation. It is a crime to breach the conditions of probation.


If the assault was severe or the accused has committed criminal offences before they may be sent to jail. The person charged might be allowed to serve the jail sentence on weekends, so that they do not lose their job.

A jail sentence might be followed by probation, during which time all conditions must be obeyed. If your partner goes to jail, talk with the victim services worker about what happens next.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by People's Law School, 2014.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence Family Violence & Abuse © People's Law School is, except for the images, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.
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