- 1 VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS
- 1.1 WHAT IS A VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT?
- 1.2 WHO CAN WRITE A VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT?
- 1.3 VICTIM STATEMENTS AT SENTENCING
- 1.3.1 WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF WRITING A VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT AT SENTENCING?
- 1.3.2 HOW DO I WRITE A VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT AT SENTENCING?
- 1.4 COMMUNITY IMPACT STATEMENTS
- 1.5 VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS AT HEARINGS
- 2 VICTIM-OFFENDER MEDIATION
- 3 OTHER INPUT OPPORTUNITIES
- 4 CONCLUSION
- 5 CONTACT INFORMATION
The victim’s voice has become an important aspect of the Canadian criminal Justice system. This booklet is designed to help explain to a victim the ways in which they can participate in criminal proceedings, how the process works, and the benefits of doing so. Contact information for each of the provinces, as well as for the Parole Board of Canada for each region, and Correctional Service Canada can be found at the end of this booklet.
VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS
WHAT IS A VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT?
A victim impact statement is a statement, generally written by the victim, which describes the harm or loss suffered by the victim as the result of a crime. The purpose of victim impact statements is to give the victim a voice in the criminal process. A victim impact statement allows the victim to participate in the sentencing of the offender by explaining the effects and impact the crime has had on their life.
WHO CAN WRITE A VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT?
A victim impact statement can be prepared by the victim, someone on behalf of the victim, or by survivors of deceased victims. In cases where the victim is a child, or when the victim is incapable of writing the statement, spouses or family members may step in and write the statement for them. You are allowed to have help writing the statement, however it should be written in your own words using your own thoughts.
VICTIM STATEMENTS AT SENTENCING
Sentencing is the first opportunity that victims have to write and submit a victim impact statement. The decision to write a victim impact statement is entirely optional. However, if a victim decides to submit a victim impact statement, it is mandatory that the judge consider the statement in his/her decision.
Once the statement is written, you will give it to the Crown Attorney who will pass it on to the judge. The offender will also receive a copy; however personal information (addresses/ phone number etc.) will not be given to the offender. The statement can be read during sentencing either by yourself as the victim, or by the Crown Attorney, or by the Judge.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF WRITING A VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT AT SENTENCING?
The presentation of a victim impact statement can be beneficial in a variety of ways. Firstly, it may help you as the victim. By writing a victim impact statement you are playing a larger role in the proceedings and you can be sure that your personal opinion, concerns, and experience are heard not only by the Crown Attorney, but also by the judge and the offender. The victim impact statement has to be taken into consideration by the judge, and as such will play a role in the sentencing decision. Finally, upon hearing the victim impact statement, any losses or expenses you have suffered as outlined in your statement may be considered by the judge.
HOW DO I WRITE A VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT AT SENTENCING?
If you are interested in writing a victim impact statement you must first complete the forms for your province which will be available through either the police or the Crown Attorney (depending on the province). If in doubt of where to obtain these forms, ask the Crown Attorney, or use the contact information found at the end of this booklet.
The statement itself should describe the harm done to you and any losses suffered as a result of the crime. Don’t write anything offensive, or try to suggest an appropriate sentence, but rather explain what would make you feel safer which will influence the judge’s decision in sentencing. One of the easiest ways to write a victim impact statement is to divide it into three types of effects, such as the following examples:
1) How the crime affected you emotionally and psychologically
- How your life has changed as a result of the crime
- Any reactions you have had to cope with, for example, difficulty sleeping, changes in eating or drinking patterns
- Any changes in how you relate to yourself or others since the occurrence of the crime
- Any counselling or therapy required
2) How the crime affected you physically
- Any physical injuries sustained as a result of the crime
- How long the healing process took
- Difficulties you have experienced as a result of those injuries
3) How the crime affected you financially
- How the crime impacted your ability to work; any missed work days as a result of the crime that resulted in a loss of pay
- Any bills that resulted from the occurrence of the crime
- Any damages or loss of property as a result of the crime
When it comes to length, it is important to get your points across but keep it concise in order to ensure that the statement is read in its entirety. Each province has its own standards and guidelines for victim impact statements, so it is important to verify proper procedure for your province. Contact information for each province is listed at the end of this booklet.
COMMUNITY IMPACT STATEMENTS
WHAT IS A COMMUNITY IMPACT STATEMENT?
A community impact statement is a statement written by a selected person in the community which describes the harm or loss suffered by the community as the result of a crime. The purpose of the community impact statement is to give the community a voice in Court and an opportunity to express the effects the crime had on the community. The community impact statement must be taken into consideration by the Court during sentencing proceedings to establish the impact of the harm against the community.
WHO CAN WRITE A COMMUNITY IMPACT STATEMENT?
A community impact statement can be prepared by any person to act as a community representative. The community representative must have either been harmed by an offence or has knowledge of an offence that has caused harm to the community.
WHAT IS INCLUDED IN A COMMUNITY IMPACT STATEMENT?
There is a standard community impact statement form that is used in all provinces and territories. A community impact statement presented to the court should provide information about:
Reasons for the use of a community representative and impact the offence has on the community. This should include information on how the offence has emotionally, physically, or financially impacted the members of the community. Similar to victim impact statements, the easiest way to write a community impact statement is to divide it into three types of effects, such as the following examples:
- How the crime affected the community emotionally and psychologically
– How the community members’ lives have changed as a result of the crime; ability to work, attend school, etc.
– Any changes in community member’s relationships with other community members
– Any changes to the community’s sense of belonging
- How the crime affected the community physically
– Any changes in the community’s transportation and accessibility to services
- How the crime affected the community financially
– Any decrease in property value
– Any decrease in the number of visitors or tourists
– Any concerns that the community representative may have for his/her safety or his/her family and friends safety.
– Aids may be used to fully express how the offence has affected the community (drawings, poems, letters, etc.).
Just like victim impact statements, each province has different standards and guidelines for community impact statements, so it is important to verify proper procedure for your province. Contact information for each province is listed at the end of this booklet.
HOW DO I SUBMIT A COMMUNITY IMPACT STATEMENT?
A community impact statement form can be obtained by the victim services, the police, or the prosecutor. The completed community impact statement form is to be submitted to victim services or to the prosecutor. You are allowed to have help filling out the form by the victim/community impact statement program in your province or territory. For more information, please see A Guide to Responding to Victimization in Your Community.
VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS AT HEARINGS
Victim statements are not limited to sentencing, but can also be used during hearings. A victim statement at a hearing allows the victim to present information directly to members of the Parole Board of Canada explaining the continuing impact that the crime has had on their lives as well as any safety concerns that they may hold. The victim can either read the statement at a hearing either in person or by audio or visual recordings. However, the written statement must be submitted at least 30 days prior to the hearing (45 days if it needs to be translated [hearings are conducted in the preferred language of the offender]). The presentation made at the hearing must be the same as given in the written statement. As with the victim impact statement presented at sentencing, a copy will be given to the offender, however none of the victim’s personal information will be included.
The statement should be concise and the victim can choose whether to present the statement at the beginning or end of the hearing, following the interview with the offender or (in cases where the offender has an assistant) following the concluding remarks of the assistant.
HOW DO I WRITE A STATEMENT FOR A HEARING?
A victim statement presented at a hearing should provide information about:
- The continuing impact that the crime has on the victim and victim family members. Once again this should include information about emotional/psychological distress, physical disability, and financial troubles
- Any concerns that the victim may have for his/her safety, the safety of his/her family, or even the safety of the general community if the offender is released. In this section the victim should include information as to why the offender poses a risk if released
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF WRITING VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS AT HEARINGS?
Like with presenting a victim impact statement at sentencing, presenting a victim statement at a hearing can be beneficial to the victim in terms of having your voice heard, feeling as if you are a valued part of the process, and knowing that you have the power to make a difference.
Benefits of providing a victim statement during a hearing also extend past personal satisfaction. Relevant information provided in the statement can help the Parole Board of Canada assess numerous areas that can impact their decision regarding the release of the offender. Some of the points which the statement can help the Parole Board of Canada assess during the hearing are as follows:
- The nature and extent of the harm or loss suffered by the victim
- The offender’s potential risk of re-offending
- The offender’s potential risk of committing violent crime
- The offender’s understanding of the impact that the offense had on others
- Any necessary conditions that may be needed to manage risk presented by the offender
- The offender’s release plans, especially in situations in which the victim is a family member (possible repercussions).
For more information on providing a statement at a hearing, please call the Parole Board of Canada toll free at: 1-866-789-4636.
Victim-offender mediation is a type of restorative justice in which the offender and victim meet with a mediator. The process is completely voluntary and may not be suitable in all cases; however some victims have found the process to be therapeutic. The process offers the victim a chance to fully and directly explain the impact that the crime had on their life. It is an opportunity to have questions answered about both the offense itself as well as the offender. Many victims have found that this opportunity provides some closure.
HOW DOES VICTIM-OFFENDER MEDIATION WORK?
Both the victim and the offender need to be agreeable to the meeting. Most commonly the meeting is face to face, with the presence of a trained mediator. However, the process can also be indirect. Either through letters, videos, or what is referred to as the ‘shuffle exchange’ in which the mediator acts as a go-between for the victim and offender and relays the messages between the two. There is follow up support available for both the offender and the victim if required.
To make a request for victim-offender mediation you can contact a victim services officer at: 1-866-806-2275 or Correctional Service Canada restorative opportunities coordinator at 613-995-4444, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
OTHER INPUT OPPORTUNITIES
Submitting a statement at a sentencing or parole hearing, and meeting with the offender may be the most obvious way that a victim’s voice can be heard in the criminal justice system; however there are other means as well. The following list of examples may not be as personal as the options listed above, but they still provide an opportunity for a victims’ voice to be heard:
- Sitting on a victim advisory committee
- Sitting on a citizen advisory committee for Correctional Service Canada
- Assisting with victim sensitivity training for Correctional Service Canada or Parole Board of Canada staff
- Assisting with victim awareness programs for offenders
- Providing input into policy development
If you are interested in opportunities such as these, contact the Parole Board of Canada or Correctional Service Canada. Contact information can be found at the end of this booklet.
The victims’ voice is an integral part of the Canadian justice system. Not only does it allow the victim to be a participating member in the process, but it has the ability to influence courtroom decisions both at sentencing and during hearings. Victim participation can be a difficult and very emotional process, but can also be, in a way, therapeutic. By speaking up and participating, victims are not only fighting for themselves and their rights within their own case, but are also speaking up for future victims in an effort to better the process.
CORRECTIONAL SERVICES OF CANADA
Toll Free: 1-866-806-2275
(NB, NS, PEI, NL & Labrador)
(East of Thunder Bay & Including Nunavut)
(Alberta, Sask., Manitoba, NWT, NW Ontario incl. Thunder Bay)
PAROLE BOARD OF CANADA
Fax: (514) 283-5484
Fax 306- 975-5892
Feedback about our Victim Library is greatly appreciated.
Please vofv(at)victimsofviolence(dot)on.ca if you have any comments, or to report errors or omissions.