Getting the Police Involved
You may be worried about making a report to the police, especially if the person harming you is someone you care about, such as your spouse, or child. It may be helpful to remember that abusive behavior is not healthy for you or for your abuser. It’s okay to reach out for help.
For a shorter audio/visual version of the information about getting the police involved, click here.
For a shorter audio/visual version of the information about what happens to the accused, click here.
How do I make a report to the police?
To make a report, you must first call the police. The police will want to talk to you in person. When you report abuse to the police, the officer who talks to you will ask many questions. Some of those questions may be difficult to answer but you should try to give as much information as possible. You will have to identify the abuser.
What you tell the police will be recorded on a piece of paper called a Statement. After the Statement is finished, you will be asked to sign it. Be sure to ask for a copy it. Get the police officer’s name and phone number and, if possible, the reference or file number of the report for future reference. If you later remember something you should have said, you can contact the officer and provide this new information.
Be sure to tell the police officer if you are being threatened or if you are in any danger. You may need to make a plan to keep yourself safe. The police can help you do that or connect you to other people who can help (such as victims’ services workers). For more on making a safety plan, see our page of Additional Resources.
What else will the police will do?
- The police will investigate your complaint.
- The police may interview family members, caregivers, and neighbours who may have evidence about the incident.
- The police may also interview the accused.
- The police will gather other any other evidence that is relevant to the complaint; this can include securing the area where it happened for a time (also known as “preserving the scene”).
- The police may then lay charges against the abuser
Some victims of crimes cannot tell the police what happened because of illness, injury or disability. If that is the case, the police can still look for other evidence. This evidence might include weapons or property that has been obtained illegally or statements by witnesses.
What else will I have to do?
You may need to have photographs taken of your injuries. You may have to go to a hospital for a physical examination. You may have to testify in court if charges are laid.
You should try to stay informed about what is happening with your complaint. If you have not heard from the police after a week or so, follow up your report by contacting the officer who took the complaint. Victims’ service workers may also be able to help you find out what is happening with the investigation.
What is Victims’ Services?
Victims’ Services workers offer victims of crime the information, practical assistance and emotional support they need when they get involved in the justice system. They can also help you communicate your needs and concerns to the police or Crown counsel.
Some Victims’ Services programs are community-based, which means they are provided through community agencies across your province or territory. Some specialize in helping victims of certain kinds of crimes and others specialize in serving people from specific cultural backgrounds. An example is the Elizabeth Fry Society.
Other Victims’ Services programs are police-based. These are usually located in police detachments, and they usually work with victims of any crime, and are generally involved from the time the crime is reported to police.
What is “laying charges”?
The phrase “laying charges” comes from a legal process, which is called “Laying an Information”. In order for a criminal matter to begin, an Information has to be laid by the police.
It happens like this:
- After your Statement as been completed, the police will investigate your complaint.
- If the officer thinks that the accused committed a crime they will prepare a report for the Crown counsel. This report is called a “Report to Crown Counsel” (RTCC). It is also sometimes referred to as “particulars of charge”.
- The Crown counsel will look at the report from the police and decide if the person should be charged with a crime.
- If there is enough evidence that a crime has been committed, an Information will be laid and the police will arrest a suspected offender.
You will be informed as to whether or not the accused was charged. If the accused is charged, the Crown counsel will prosecute the accused (you do not hire your own lawyer).
What happens to the person I have accused?
Sometimes the police will arrest a person suspected of committing a crime. They might do this to stop him or her from continuing the crime or to make sure that the victim and other people are safe. In addition, the police may keep the accused locked up if they believe that he or she is a risk to others or might not show up for a court appearance.
When an accused is arrested, the police will either:
- keep that person in custody if they believe that he or she is a risk to others or may not attend court as required. The Crown counsel will conduct a “show cause hearing” to give reasons for not releasing the accused until a preliminary inquiry or trial;
- let the person go with conditions attached to the release (this is known as “bail”)..
Any person charged with a crime has the right to be considered for bail. No one can automatically be held in custody until trial. Generally, a bail hearing is an application to be released from jail until the trial takes place.
The accused must be given a bail hearing within 24 hours of being arrested. The judge or justice of the peace issuing the bail order may ask for one of several different types of bail. The options are as follows
- A promise to appear (also called an “undertaking” to appear). This may have some conditions attached. For example: reporting to a bail supervisor; agreeing to live at a certain address; or not having contact with the victim (this is known as a No-Contact Order).
- Recognizance. This is an agreement to pay a set amount of money to ensure they appear in court when required to do so. A recognizance can also have different conditions attached.