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Victim recantation, or when the Crown becomes your accuser

If you are facing domestic assault charges in the Calgary courts, you should be aware that the Crown can decline to drop charges even when the alleged victim attempts a recantation.

The Alberta Court of Appeal determined that crime victims don't have the responsibility or authority to decide if a prosecution should proceed. The Court found:

"…that responsibility can only be discharged by qualified prosecutors who have the training, judgment and courage to make the necessary decisions inherent in every prosecution. …"

What that means to defendants in domestic violence cases is the Crown essentially becomes your accuser even when an alleged victim claims to want to drop the case.

You may be thinking that doesn't sound very fair. After all, if the person who is supposed to have been abused by you is willing to let bygones be bygones, shouldn't the Crown abide by that person's wishes?

Not necessarily, and here's why. If an alleged victim's security and safety are closely tied to the relationship with the supposed abuser, it would theoretically be easy to manipulate that person and influence decisions he or she makes by using coercive tactics and threats. Sometimes the pressure could be applied by others who are close to the person accused of the abuse. In that light, the Crown retains the right to continue its pursuit of a conviction even without the cooperation of the purported victim.

Often the officer who originally investigated the incident will again interview the recanting victim and offer an assessment of the authenticity of the recantation.

The Crown also weighs the potential safety of the person recanting, as well as the public interest when making their decision. They may decide to stay the proceedings, terminate the case, call no evidence or withdraw the allegations.

If there has been a recantation, the Crown prosecutor has to disclose this to your defence counsel. In cases where there is insufficient evidence to prove the charges without the victim testifying, the Crown may be more inclined to let the matter drop. With very serious offences, the Crown will usually do whatever is necessary and reasonable to compel testimony.

Source:, "Domestic Violence Guideline," accessed Aug. 05, 2016

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