Initiation of a Sexual Assault Complaint
In Canada, an individual can file a sexual assault complaint with law enforcement regardless of the time that has passed since the alleged assault. The Criminal Code doesn't set a limitation period for crimes, but summary offences have a 6-month prescriptive period.
Police Investigation of the Sexual Assault
Upon receiving a complaint, the police prepare an in-depth report detailing the events surrounding the alleged sexual assault (including specifics like location and time, and any physical evidence). This information aids the investigation and serves to assist in the decision as to whether to lay a charge.
Police Transfer the Sexual Assault Case to the Prosecutor
After the police wrap up their investigation, the report is, in some instances, handed over to Crown Prosecutions. Crown Prosecutions assesses whether there is sufficient evidence to support a criminal charge. Typically, for charges to be laid, prosecutors must believe, based on a clear assessment of the evidence, that an unbiased judge or jury could reasonably deduce the accused's guilt. However, prosecutors might opt not to initiate proceedings even if there's compelling evidence if they deem that it is inadvisable to do so in regard to the public interest.
An “information” (essentially a sworn affidavit setting out the charge) is laid once the police or Crown Prosecutions concludes that sufficient evidence exists and the police will arrest the accused for questioning and inform them of the charges against them. The accused is often (but not always) interviewed before a charge is laid. Depending on the perceived risk of the accused committing another offence or not appearing for the trial, the accused might either be detained or released until their court appearance. Click here to learn more about what occurs after being charged with sexual assault.
Appearance of the Accused
Obtaining and Reviewing Disclosure
Once charges are formally pressed, the accused (the individual charged) must attend court. The Crown is required to provide full disclosure of the prospective evidence collected. Any evidence that is relevant and probative (and in the possession of the Crown) must be produced.
Call (306) 585-1777 for a free consultation with a criminal lawyer. A lawyer can assist in developing a defence tailored to your case and personal circumstances.
If an accused pleads guilty to a sexual assault charge, the sentencing process begins. The accused can enter a guilty plea at any stage of the criminal proceedings, irrespective of an initial plea of “not guilty”.
Not Guilty Plea
Upon entering a not guilty plea, the accused selects (makes an election, in legal lingo) their preferred trial type: either before a judge alone (in Superior Court or a court of first instance–a Provincial Court or the Court of King’s Bench) or before a judge and jury (available in some cases, depending on whether the Crown proceeds by indictment or summary conviction).
Some more serious sexual assault cases are eligible for a preliminary hearing upon request, wherein a judge assesses if the evidence warrants a full trial. The Preliminary Hearing judge will identify which charges have sufficient evidence to proceed to trial and can make a finding that insufficient evidence exists to support certain charges proceeding to trial.
This crucial phase sees the prosecuting lawyer striving to establish the accused's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Both the prosecution and defence participate, represented by their respective lawyers. Witnesses are called, evidence is introduced, and cross-examinations ensue.
Jury trials: A unanimous decision is rendered for each charge. If a unanimous verdict isn't reached, a new trial must be held with a new jury. If the verdict is guilty, sentencing is at the judge's discretion.
Judge-only trials: The judge trying the case may delay (adjourn) to review the evidence before rendering a verdict.
Retain Nicholas Robinson, Sexual Assault Lawyer to Fight Your Criminal Charges
Nicholas Robinson is a sexual assault lawyer with offices in Regina, Saskatchewan and Toronto, Ontario who is dedicated to creating client-centred solutions. Nicholas attempts to craft legal solutions that match the goals and personal circumstances of each individual client.