Once the police complete their investigation, they will decide if there is enough evidence to recommend to Crown counsel that a charge be laid against the accused person. Their recommendation forms part of the report to Crown counsel (RCC).
Charge Assessment Guidelines
Crown counsel review every report sent to them by police or other investigative agencies. They follow a charge assessment guidelines policy for making decisions about whether to charge someone with a criminal offence. The policy is part of the Crown counsel policy manual.
The policy requires Crown counsel to make their charge assessment decision based on the following, two-part formula:
- Is there is a substantial likelihood of conviction based on evidence presented in the RCC? In other words, is there a strong, solid case to present in court?
- If yes, is a prosecution required in the public interest? Crown counsel consider many factors in deciding this, including how serious the allegations are. For example, whether a victim suffered serious harm or a weapon was used.
The purpose of this charge assessment is to ensure only solid cases and those in the public interest move forward to trial. Crown counsel can decide no charges should be laid, charges should be laid or an alternative to the court process may be appropriate.
If Crown counsel decides to lay charges, the charges will be set out in a document issued by a justice of the peace called an information.
Types of Offences
There are three different kinds of offences.
Summary Offences – These are less serious offences. The maximum penalty for a summary offence is usually a $2,000 fine and/or six months in jail. Some summary offences have higher maximum sentences. Alternative measures can be considered for less serious offences.
Indictable Offences – These are more serious offences and include theft over $5,000, break and enter, aggravated sexual assault and murder. Maximum penalties for indictable offences vary and include life in prison. Some indictable offences have minimum penalties.
Hybrid Offences - These are offences that can dealt with as either summary or indictable. Crown counsel makes the decision about how the offence will be dealt with.
Visit Types of Offences for more information.
Instead of laying charges, Crown counsel may send a caution letter, refer the matter for alternative measures if the accused is an adult or extrajudicial sanctions if the accused is a youth or begin court proceedings.
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