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Frequently Asked Questions

  1. I am a victim of sexual assault and I need help, but I’m not sure if I want to report the crime. Can I still get help and how?
  2. I am victim of break and enter – what help is available to me?
  3. I am a victim of fraud – what help is available to me?
  4. I need a restraining order – how do I get one and is this different from a peace bond?
  5. Can I change my mind about testifying against the accused?
  6. What is a Crown counsel? Is s/he my lawyer?
  7. I am a victim of a crime - do I need my own lawyer?
  8. Can I get help filling out my victim impact statement?
  9. I’ve heard of both a victim impact statement and a victim statement. Are they the same thing?
  10. I have to testify in court but I am afraid to see the accused. Can I ask to testify at another time or from another room?
  11. I have to travel to attend court – can I request funding to pay for my trip and that of someone to accompany me?
  12. Is my boss required to give me time off to attend court?
  13. I witnessed a crime and I know the victim but s/he doesn’t want to report it. Can I report the crime?
  14. I am a victim and reported the crime but police didn’t press charges. Why?
  15. The person who victimized me is up for parole and I’d like to submit a victim statement. Do I need to present it in person?
  16. I just received a subpoena. Do I have to obey it?
  17. My son/daughter is being called as a witness and I don’t know what to do. Is there someone who can help us prepare?
  18. Someone close to me will be testifying in court but English is not their first language. Can we ask for an interpreter?
  19. How many times can I be called to testify? How long will the process take?
  20. I heard that I can sue the accused in small claims court for restitution. Is this true?

Answers

I am a victim of sexual assault and I need help, but I’m not sure if I want to report the crime. Can I still get help and how?

As a victim of sexual assault you have the right to access support through a victim service program – even if you do not want to report the crime. To find a support program near you contact VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808.

You may also go to a hospital or clinic to learn about your choices for care. It is completely up to you to decide what care you need.

It’s also important to know that, even if you’re unsure about reporting a sexual assault immediately following the crime, you can still ask for a medical forensic examination to collect evidence so that if you decide to report the sexual assault in the future, the evidence will be available for the police.

To learn more about getting support following a sexual assault, click here.

To learn what happens when you report a sexual or domestic assault, click here.

I am victim of break and enter – what help is available to me?

To learn about the support available to victims of break and enter, click here.

I am a victim of fraud – what help is available to me?

To learn about the support available to victims of fraud, click here.

I need a protection order – how do I get one?

If you are in immediate danger, call the police at 911. If you are not in immediate danger but still fear for your safety, you may want to consider whether a peace bond or a restraining order is best for you.

Typically, a peace bond is used where there is a serious risk to the safety of you and your family. You report your fears about someone to the police, the police conduct an investigation and, following that, may forward a report to Crown Counsel. There is no cost to you and there is no criminal charge involved. The person you have reported you are afraid of may agree to sign a peace bond to stay away from you and the matter is closed. On the other hand, if the person chooses not to cooperate they will be required to attend a hearing, and could be ordered to stay away from you. If that person breaks the agreement to stay away from you, he or she may be charged with a criminal offence.

A restraining order also results in a requirement that someone stay away from you. It is most commonly used for less serious safety concerns. Restraining orders are handled in civil court and the services of a private lawyer are usually needed. In some cases Legal Aid may be available to pay your expenses.

For more information about protection orders and how to get them, click here.

Also visit:
http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/victim_services/publications/guides/PeaceBonds...

Can I change my mind about testifying against the accused?

The prospect of testifying can be scary but if you have received a subpoena, the answer to your question is no, you must obey the subpoena and go ahead and testify. You are going to find that preparation beforehand and more information about the court process is going to make you feel a great deal more confident.

In some cases, it may be that you have changed your mind about testifying because you are afraid of the accused or of the consequences of a conviction. If this is the case, please express your concerns to your Victim Service Worker or Crown counsel as soon as possible.

Who is Crown counsel? Is s/he my lawyer?

Crown counsel, also known as Crown prosecutors or simply Crown, are lawyers employed by government – that is, the Criminal Justice Branch of the Ministry of the Attorney General. They are not lawyers for the victim, but rather present the prosecution side of the case on behalf of the best interests of the general public. Crown’s job is to assist the judge is rendering a just decision.


Learn more
about Crown counsel.

I am a victim of a crime - do I need my own lawyer?

You will most likely not need your own lawyer, In the rare case where a victim is required to have a lawyer, Crown will help obtain someone and pay the costs of representation. If you are concerned, check with your victim service worker or with Crown.

Can I get help filling out my victim impact statement?

Yes. A Victim Service Worker can explain the importance of completing a victim impact statement and what a victim impact statement is used for, and he or she can help you fill one out. If you do not have a Victim Service Worker you can find one by calling VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808.

You can also find information, a video and a downloadable guide to completing your victim impact statement on this website. Click here to learn more.

I’ve already done a witness statement for the police. Why should I do a victim impact statement?

Sometimes there is confusion between a victim impact statement which a judge takes into consideration in setting a sentence and the witness statement that a victim or witness gives to the police describing the actual offence. A Victim impact statement, only describes the harm or injury caused by the offender and avoids all mention of what happened. However, a witness statement given to the police provides a detailed description of what happened and provides the basis for the police investigation and any subsequent prosecution.

I’ve heard of both a victim impact statement and a victim statement or victim information. Are they the same thing?

No, they are not the same. A victim impact statement is an [early] description of how a crime has affected you – emotionally, physically and financially. It is given to the judge and used in sentencing if the accused is found guilty or pleads guilty. If one was submitted prior to sentencing, a victim impact statement previously prepared may be on the offender's file and may be considered prior to parole.


Learn more
about victim impact statements.

A victim statement (or victim information) is written information provided by a victim prior to an offender’s potential release through a parole hearing. It details the continuing impact the crime has on a victim and any concerns a victim has for their and their family’s safety. It is designed to help the parole board evaluate the risk an offender poses to the victim and to the community.

To learn more about victim statements, click here.

I have to testify in court but I am afraid to see the accused. Can I ask to testify at another time or from another room?

Generally, witnesses are required to testify in court during the regular trial process. If you have to testify and are afraid, remember that every measure has been taken to ensure the safety and security of everyone in the courtroom. Sheriffs are in attendance at all times and you are encouraged to speak to them if you feel unsafe or threatened in any way. In addition, you may request the assistance of a friend, relative or victim service worker to accompany you to court for emotional support.

In special circumstances - particularly when children and vulnerable witnesses are involved - a witness may request testimonial accommodations that would permit them to testify from another room or from behind a screen so that they do not have to see the accused during their testimony. In all cases, however, the accused will be able to see the witness during testimony.

To learn more about testimonial accommodations and how to request them, click here.

I have to travel to attend court – can I request funding to pay for my trip and that of someone to accompany me?

If you are a witness, testifying for Crown counsel and are required to travel to court from another community, travel expenses for you to attend court may be provided. Information about who to contact regarding travel arrangements is usually located on the notice to appear, subpoena or in an accompanying document that provides additional important information for witnesses who are required to testify in court.

Is my boss required to give me time off to attend court?

Yes, your boss must allow you to take time off to honour a subpoena. Your employer cannot intimidate you or coerce you not to testify, or give you any financial or other penalty or otherwise discriminate against you because you were absent from work to appear in Court as a witness in a trial. Any such actions on the part of your employer should be reported to the police and Crown immediately.

I witnessed a crime and I know the victim but s/he doesn’t want to report it. Can I report the crime?

You certainly are able to report the crime to the police. The police are always open to receiving reports from the public and will keep the report on hand. However, whatever action the police decide to take in the matter will be entirely up to the police.

I am a victim and reported the crime but police didn’t press charges. Why?

Charging a person with an offence is a complicated process and the decision does not rest with the police. Investigating a crime and recommending a charge is the job of the police as an independent body tasked to protect the public. But ultimately, laying a charge against an offender is the job of Crown counsel. Crown are government employees given the task of determining whether a case merits charges. Crown’s decision to approve charges is generally based on a combination of the likelihood of conviction and the risk the accused poses to the public. Although both the police and Crown counsel consider the views of the victim with respect to prosecution and sentencing, the investigation and decisions about what charge to lay must be based on legal principles and the public interest alone, not the wishes of the victim.

The person who victimized me is up for parole and I’d like to submit a victim statement. Do I need to present it in person?

No. When an offender comes up for parole, you have the option of attending the hearing and reading your previously submitted victim’s information to the Board or, if you do not want to attend, you may request that an audio or video tape of your information be presented. Keep in mind that in either case, you must submit your information in advance.

For more information about submitting a victim statement, click here.

I just received a subpoena to testify. Do I have to obey it?

Yes. The court will not excuse a witness from testifying but may excuse a witness from attending on a particular day, depending upon the witness’ reason for wanting to be excused. If you are going to have trouble attending as required, contact Crown counsel as soon as possible. Whatever you do, do not ignore a subpoena.

My son/daughter is being called as a witness and I don’t know what to do. Is there someone who can help us prepare?

Yes. A Victim Service Worker can provide you with the support and information you need to help your child testify in court. To find a Victim Service Worker in your area please contact VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808. In addition, you can find information on this website to help your child testify. To learn more, click here.

Someone close to me will be testifying in court but they have trouble speaking and understanding English. Can we ask for an interpreter?

Yes. If you or a witness you are supporting requires translation services, talk to Crown handling the case as soon as possible.

How many times can I be called to testify? How long will the process take?

Most witnesses will have to testify only once if the case proceeds to trial but if you have been subpoenaed to testify in a case that involves a preliminary hearing, you most likely will be required to testify twice – once at the hearing and once again if the case is committed to trial.

It is really impossible to tell how long your testimony will take. Crown might be able to give you a rough idea of the time needed for their questioning but won’t be able to predict the length of time Defence will require for cross-examination.

I heard that I can sue the accused in small claims court for restitution. Is this true?

Yes. Regardless of the outcome of a trial, a victim may sue the accused for damages or loss of property in civil court. For more information about restitution, click here.

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