THE SIGNIFICANCE OF A VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT IN ONTARIO

Vicitm Impact Statement

The victim impact statement is filled out by any individual to whom has been subject to harm either by physical or emotional loss. Typically, the statement is completed by the individual, but may also be done by someone else on their behalf. This may mean that a relative or guardian could fill out the statement on their behalf.

The Victim Impact Statement Often Plays A Vital Role In The Case

The victim impact statement often plays a vital role in the case, sometimes at the very early stages. The victim, also generally referred to as the “complainant”, may be reluctant to proceed with the case for reasons such as reconciliation with the accused. Other times, the victim may still be affected by the harm done by the accused to this day, and the victim may be seeking justice and peace of mind. Crown Attorney’s usually place a significant amount of weight on the victim impact statement and it guides them with their approach and prosecution of the case.

A common misconception in domestic violence charges is that the complainant decides whether to proceed with the charges. This is false and rather it is the Crown and police who decide whether the charges will continue or not. The Crown will likely not just withdraw the charges because it is simply against the wishes of the victim. The Crown instead looks at the broad public concerns in prosecuting or not prosecuting the case which expands beyond the particular instance of the case.

A Victim Impact Statement Allows The Victim To Have Their Voice Heard

A victim impact statement allows the complainant to participate in the process and have their voice heard. That’s not to say they always speak the truth when filling out the victim impact statement. Moreover, a victim may not intend to exaggerate or mislead in some instances but perhaps their judgment is clouded or the event happened so recently that they are too worked up to think and relay their thoughts rationally. The victim witness statement is intended to be in the complainant’s own words and must be entirely voluntarily. Victim impact statements should not be used to describe the crime or how it occurred but rather to describe how the crime affected them.

Victim Impact Statements Are Used To Describe How The Crime Affected Them

While victim impact statements may provide valuable information and a better understanding to the prosecution and courts of the case, they are not to be viewed as the complainant controlling and determining the nature of the prosecution’s case and the quantum of sentencing. With that said, appellate courts have taken the initiative to set aside sentences imposed at the trial level, if the trial judge has failed to take into account significant information that has been relayed through the victim impact statement. For instance, in R. v. Kennedy (1999), the Ontario Court of Appeal set aside a sentence imposed by a trial judge because he had failed to take into consideration the full impact of the sexual assault upon the complainant whom had made a victim impact statement.

It is not unusual for a complainant to regret some of the language or content they provided in their victim impact statement. If this is the case, or if they feel they may have exaggerated at the time, it may, be best for them to have that discussion with the Crown Attorney. Defense lawyers generally have no place being involved in this process as there may be a conflict of interest and other ethical issues at stake.

In summation, a victim impact statement can cut both ways when it comes to prosecuting or defending a case, but may be germane to the overall goal of justice for all parties involved.

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