Domestic charges involve charges that occur between individuals in a relationship. Most commonly they involve charges of assault, however will often consist of charges of mischief, uttering threats and criminal harassment. The Crown Policy Manual, which dictates Crown policy in prosecuting offences of this type, instructs the Crown to pursue these charges “with vigour”.
In all but rare cases, when an individual is charged with a domestic offence, they are held in custody and brought to court for a bail hearing (in some circumstances, when offences are of a very minor nature, release from the police station can be obtained, but this is very uncommon). In order for an individual to be released on bail for domestic offences they will almost always require a residential surety, which means that someone they know (who lacks a criminal record and has some form of income or assets) will be required to sign their bail, and that they will be required to live with that person. Except in the rarest of circumstances, the individual charged will be placed on conditions that require them to have no contact with the complainant and to not attend at any place they know the complainant to be. In practice, this can mean that the individual charged will not be able to have any contact with their partner or attend at their shared home until the charges are dealt with. As such, it is imperative that domestic charges be dealt with as quickly as possible while still ensuring a positive outcome.
In Canadian law, the Crown makes all decisions of whether to proceed in a case or not. The Crown Policy Manual requires that “exceptional circumstances” exist for domestic charges to be withdrawn. Even if the victim no longer wishes to proceed with the charges, this does not mean that the Crown will not proceed with the case. As well, if a victim who has been subpoenaed to attend at the trial of the matter chooses not to attend, the Crown can seek a warrant for their arrest to compel them to attend. Further, if the witness chooses to change their evidence from what they originally said to the police, the Crown has the option of attempting to have their original video statement put into evidence (if one was made at the time of the initial investigation).
Given the variety of issues that are present when dealing with domestic charges, it is important to form an effective and coherent strategy to fight the case at the earliest possible time.