Before Going to Court
Crown counsel undertake their duties even before they step into a courtroom. In B.C., Crown counsel decide whether or not to lay charges when a crime is committed.
Once a crime is reported to police or other agency, police investigate and decide whether or not to send a report to Crown counsel (RCC). The report details the police findings. Crown counsel do not investigate crimes.
After reviewing the RRC, Crown counsel decide whether or not to lay charges. The decision to charge a person with a crime is a serious one. Crown counsel approach the task carefully because charging a person with an offence, even if they are found not guilty, has significant implications for the person and others. And, the judicial process can be expensive for individuals and society.
Crown counsel follow specific guidelines for making charging decisions. This is called the charge assessment guidelines policy (PDF) and is available to the public. 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 the evidence presented in the RCC? In other words, is there a strong, solid case to present in court?
- If yes, is a prosecution is required in the public interest? Crown counsel must consider many factors in deciding this, including the seriousness of the allegations.
Crown counsel can decide:
- No charges should be laid
- Charges should be laid
- An alternative to the court process, such as alternative measures, may be appropriate.