Frequently Asked Questions About the Criminal Justice Branch

1. How does the charging process work?

In British Columbia, Crown counsel are responsible for laying charges. The charging process starts after police submit a written report to Crown counsel (RCC) containing evidence and any recommended charges for the Crown’s review.

There are two components to the Crown counsel charge approval standard:

  • An evidentiary test that requires a substantial likelihood of conviction. The evidentiary test is met when Crown counsel are satisfied there is a strong, solid case of substance to present to the court.

  • A public interest test. Only after Crown counsel is satisfied the evidentiary test is met, Crown counsel determine whether the public interest requires a prosecution.

2. How does sentencing work?

Sentencing decisions are made by the judiciary, which acts independently from government.  In making sentencing decisions, judges are bound by:

  • Sentencing principles, including minimum and maximum sentences for each offence, as set out in the Criminal Code of Canada for adults and in the Youth Criminal Justice Act for youths under the age of 18.

  • Precedents, or decisions made by appellate courts for similar offences.

Sentences that are imposed and considered by Crown counsel to be unfit in the circumstances of the case are reviewed for the purpose of appeal. If an appeal is considered viable and in the public interest, Crown counsel will generally initiate proceedings to that effect.

For more information about sentencing principles, visit: Department of Justice Canada.

3. How does bail work?

“Bail” can refer to the security or money an accused is required to deposit with the court in order to compel the accused to attend future court appearances.

To detain an accused in custody, under the provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada, Crown counsel must satisfy the court that an accused must be detained to compel the accused's appearance in court or to protect the public. Otherwise, the courts must release an accused on bail.

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