- When someone is convicted of a crime a judge will decide on a sentence.
- For most crimes, there is a wide range of possible sentences.
- People under the age of 18 when they commit a crime are sentenced differently than adults.
Before an offender is sentenced there may be a sentencing hearing. Victims can attend the sentencing hearing. The Crown Prosecutor or Victim Services can tell you the time, date and place. If you choose not to go to the hearing, Victim Services can tell you what sentence the offender received.
Victim Impact Statements
Victim Impact Statements are a way for you to let the court know how the crime has affected you. Any victim of a reported crime can provide a Victim Impact Statement.
You can choose to complete the statement. The statement is about you, not the accused. It should describe how the crime has affected you. You can describe any physical, emotional or financial harm you suffered because of the crime. You can include any concerns you have about the accused staying in the community. You can ask that the accused not have any contact with you.
Certain things should not be included in a Victim Impact Statement. For example:
- The facts of the offence should not be included. The court has this from statements you made to the police about the crime and/or testimony in court.
- Complaints and comments about the justice system or how the case was handled should not be included.
- Sentencing suggestions should not be included. It is up to the judge to decide on a sentence.
The police or Victim Services will provide you with a form to fill out and sign. You can also choose to fill the form out online. You may receive help to fill out the form but it must be completed in your own words. Your writing must be readable. If you can’t complete the form in either English or French, you should discuss this with the police, Victims Services or the Crown Prosecutor. It may be possible for your statement to be recorded and presented in a different way.
If the case goes to court, the accused or their lawyer can see the Victim Impact Statement. It will only be filed with the court if there is a finding of guilt. Sometimes sentencing may take place earlier than expected. It is a good idea to prepare your Victim Impact Statement ahead of the court date. You may update your statement any time before sentencing. You will need to contact the police or the Crown Prosecutor. If necessary, the judge may postpone sentencing to give you time to prepare a statement.
Once your statement is filed with the court it becomes a public document. This means that it may be seen by many court personnel. This could include, for example:
- a Crown Prosecutor preparing for the bail hearing
- probation staff who are supervising the offender on probation
- corrections staff who are making decisions about the release of the offender from jail
If you testify at a preliminary hearing, trial or sentencing hearing, you may be cross-examined.
The judge will consider your statement at the time of sentencing. The judge may decide not to allow certain parts of your statement to be used in court. You can present your statement in any way that the court approves. If you want to read your Victim Impact Statement out in court, you must tell the Crown Prosecutor. You can also ask the judge to have someone else read it for you. The judge will decide whether to allow this. Whether the statement is read out or not, the judge will consider it when sentencing the offender.
In most cases there is a wide range of sentences for a particular crime. A judge rarely gives the maximum sentence. The maximum sentence is intended for the worst offender who has committed the worst type of offence. In some cases, however, there may be a minimum sentence. For example, the minimum sentence for murder is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for 10 to 25 years.
The judge will consider the circumstances surrounding the offence. They will also consider the offender’s history. The offender's situation affects the judge's decision too. The judge considers such things as their age, whether they are employed, and whether they suffer from a mental or physical illness. The judge will also consider any Victim Impact Statements.
Possible sentences include:
- Absolute or conditional discharge - The person is found guilty or pleads guilty but the judge does not give them a sentence. No conviction is entered against the accused person.
- Probation – The judge releases the person with certain conditions, such as completing community service or having no contact with the victim.
- Fines – The judge orders the person to pay a certain amount of money.
- Driving bans – In drinking and driving cases, the judge can take away the person’s driver’s license for a period of time.
- Jail – The judge can sentence the person to jail.