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Victims and criminal justice

The criminal justice system and the different actors that compose it are sometimes difficult to understand. Your rights in this system as a victim can be too. The CJVAC can help and inform you about the criminal justice system. For more information, see the sections below: 

Who are the victims of crime ?

Qui sont les victimes
Who is a victim?

The CJVAC welcomes all those who believe they are victims of crime.

There are different categories of victims of crime:

  • You are the person on whom the criminal act was directly committed.

  • You are a relative of a victim who suffered the crime directly, such as a family member or spouse.

  • You have witnessed the commission or scene of a crime, either as a member of the community or as a first responder.

  • You are a member of a community that is affected by the commission of a crime. For example, members of a community targeted by hate crimes.

Your rights as a victim of crime

In Quebec, the rights and services offered to victims of crime may vary depending on the category of victims to which you correspond.

Regardless of the category of victims to which you belong, the CJVAC can help you and inform you about your rights and refer you to the services that are adapted to your situation.

Filing a complaint with the police

La plainte
The complaint: the beginning of criminal and penal proceedings

Deciding to file a complaint


If you have been a victim or witness of a crime and you want the authorities to intervene, you must file a complaint with the police.

In general, you are not obliged to file a complaint. There are exceptions. For example, if the victim is under the age of 18, you must report to the Director of Youth Protection (DYP) allegations of sexual or physical abuse of a child.

For more information on the obligation regarding whether or not to report a crime, you can visit the Éducaloi website.

When to file a complaint


Some situations may require more time for a victim to file a complaint. You can file a complaint at any time, even several years after the crime.

However, circumstances may cause the prosecutor to decide not to prosecute.


For more information, you can visit the Éducaloi website.

Withdraw a complaint


You may have reason to want to withdraw a complaint made to the police. These reasons may be considered by the police and the prosecutor, but the final decision to withdraw the complaint is not up to you. In addition, specific rules may apply if you wish to withdraw your domestic violence complaint.

For more information, you can also consult the Éducaloi website on:

To better understand how this can apply to your situation, contact us to make an appointment

Milestones in the criminal justice system

Grandes étapes du système

If you choose to file a complaint, your case will go through the main stages of the criminal justice process:

File a complaint with the police

Police investigation


Hearing of the accused

Plea bargain

Guilty plea

Non-guilty plea


Preliminary investigation




Guilty verdict


The CJVAC can inform you about the different stages of the legal process and the different diversion measures for adults and youth. Contact us to make an appointment.


For more details on these different steps, you can also consult the Éducaloi website on:

  1. Plea bargaining

  2. The Release Inquiry

  3. The criminal trial

  4. Sentencing


For more details on diversion measures, you can also consult the Justice Québec website at:

  1. General alternative measures for adults

  2. Alternative measures in an Indigenous context

  3. The Non-Judicial Treatment Program

For more details on the youth justice process and the different options, you can also consult the Éducaloi website.

The role of the actors in the criminal justice system and the victim

Rôle des acteurs

Police and investigators

If you decide to file a complaint, you will meet with police officers. Afterwards, your file will be taken care of by a police investigator who will be responsible for collecting evidence. The investigator will then decide whether to forward your file to the Criminal and Penal Prosecuting Attorney based on the credibility of the evidence they have amassed.


The Criminal and Penal Prosecuting Attorney

The Criminal and Penal Prosecuting Attorney, also known as the "Crown prosecutor," reviews the evidence gathered by the police in your file to decide whether or not to charge the suspect. The prosecutor must consider that the evidence is sufficient to decide to press charges.

The prosecutor who initiates a prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the crime of which he or she is accused. The prosecutor prosecutes the accused on behalf of the state, they are not the victim's lawyer.

For more information on the prosecutor's decision whether or not to lay charges, you can visit the Éducaloi website.


Defence counsel

The defence lawyer represents the accused. They ensure that the rights of the accused are respected. They assist the accused in trying to have them acquitted of the crime or in obtaining the least severe sentence possible in the circumstances. To do this, they can look for flaws in the evidence of the prosecution. They also have the role of cross-examining the victim who testifies in the trial.

The judge

The judge presides over the trial and ensures that it goes smoothly. The judge receives the evidence and hears the prosecution and defense witnesses. They render the verdict at the end of the trial, that is, they decide whether the accused is guilty of the crime of which they are accused. If the judge decides that the accused is guilty, they also have the task of determining the sentence that will be given to the accused.


The jury

In some criminal trials, it is a jury, not the judge, who must decide whether the accused is guilty of the crime with which he or she is charged. The jury is composed of jurors, who are randomly selected citizens. All jurors must agree on the verdict at the end of the trial. If the jury finds the accused guilty of the crime, it is then up to the judge to determine the sentence to be given.


The victim

As a victim, you may be called to testify in the criminal trial, but you are not a party in the trial. If you testify, you will receive a subpoena. This is a document that requires you to appear before the Court on a specific date and time. When you testify, you must answer the prosecutor's questions about what happened in connection with the crime. You may also have to answer questions from the defence lawyer or the accused representing themselves.

If you are a victim and you are called to testify, know that help can be provided in several ways to facilitate your testimony, for example:

  • you can be accompanied and get support from CAVAC or CALACS

  • a judge may allow you to testify in the presence of a trusted person, a support dog, or testify outside the trial room.

To learn more about testimonial measures, visit our Information page. 

For more information, you can also consult the Éducaloi website on:

To better understand how this applies to your situation, contact the CJVAC to make an appointment.

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