Type of document: Prosecution Directive
Effective date: November 14, 2017

Intimate partner (or domestic) violence involves the use of physical, psychological or sexual force, actual or threatened, as well as criminal harassment, in an intimate relationship. Intimate relationships vary in duration and legal formality, and include dating, living common law or married, whether current or former.

Intimate partner violence offences are often committed in a context where there is a pattern of assaultive and/or controlling behaviour. Violence may go beyond physical assault and may include emotional, psychological and sexual abuse that is intended to induce fear, humiliation and powerlessness. Intimate partner violence is not a private matter but is a serious criminal act. Intimate partner violence is a prevalent social problem with far ranging harmful effects.

The Prosecutor must be aware of the dynamics that exist in an intimate relationship that may affect the conduct of the prosecution. In addition to fear for their personal safety and that of their children, victims of these offences may be under considerable pressure on account of many factors, including financial considerations, the need for childcare, disapproval of family members, immigration consequences or fear of being ostracized by the community. In many cases, victims will also continue to feel an emotional bond to the accused.

Children are also directly affected by intimate partner violence. The Prosecutor must be aware of the risk that children often suffer lasting emotional and psychological harm when exposed to intimate partner violence. Prosecutors shall report to child protection agencies any cases where they have reasonable suspicion that a child is, or may be, in need of protection.

At all stages of the prosecution, including bail hearings, the safety of victims and their families is a paramount factor for Prosecutors to consider in the exercise of their discretion.

Each Crown Attorney’s Office has a designated “Intimate Partner Violence” Prosecutor, who is also a member of the local Domestic Violence High-Risk Committee and any Domestic Violence Court Advisory Committee.

Judicial interim release (bail)

In intimate partner violence offences, the Prosecutor must take a position on judicial interim release applying the same general principles set out in the Judicial Interim Release (Bail) Directive, including the requirement for ongoing assessment of the strength of the Crown’s case. Prosecutors should be sensitive to the needs of the victim and to the dynamics that exist in families where a partner is allegedly abused. The Prosecutor must be conscious of the potential increased risk of harm in these cases and must seek a detention order where she considers it necessary for the safety and security of the victim or the public.

In determining whether to consent to or oppose release, the Prosecutor must consider the possibility of ongoing violence and its potential impact on the physical, emotional and psychological well-being of any children, including any child witnesses. The Prosecutor must also consider any risk assessment information before taking a position on judicial interim release. Risk factors can include but are not limited to history of violence, a pending or actual separation or substance abuse issues.

The Prosecutor must ensure that any conditions she recommends on a bail release are necessary and appropriate to the circumstances of the alleged offence and the accused. The Prosecutor should have regard to the existence of any family court orders.

The Prosecutor must ensure that efforts are made to notify the victim of any release order, the conditions of release, including non-communication and any order detaining the accused. In all cases where there is reason to have concern for a victim’s safety, the Prosecutor must ensure that victim notification occurs as soon as possible. On request, the victim must be provided with a copy of the court order.

Charge screening

When applying the Charge Screening Directive the Prosecutor should keep in mind the factors unique to cases of intimate partner violence. The public interest factors in these cases must be considered with the predominant need to protect the victim. Given the prevalence and danger of intimate partner violence it will usually be in the public interest to proceed with these prosecutions. Ultimately, the decision to prosecute must be based on factors specific to each case.

In certain circumstances, the interests of justice may be best served by requiring a motivated, low-risk accused to complete domestic violence education and counselling. The Prosecutor may consider recommending counselling provided by an early intervention program only where:

  • the accused pleads guilty [or agrees to enter into a s.810 Recognizance]
  • the accused has no convictions for violence-related offences
  • the accused did not cause serious injuries or harm
  • no weapon was used in the offence
  • the victim is consulted.

The Prosecutor must not withdraw charges solely based on the victim’s request. The Prosecutor must consider all the circumstances. These victims may be reluctant to continue a prosecution and be under considerable pressure to seek the withdrawal of the charges.

Victim as witness

In cases where the victim recants or refuses to testify, the Prosecutor must consider the reasons for the recantation or refusal. The Prosecutor must consider whether the case can be proven using other evidence and the appropriateness of an adjournment.

Resolution discussions and sentencing

Section 810 recognizances (“Peace Bonds”)

There may be exceptional cases where the victim’s safety, their best interests and the interests of society could be served by employing an alternative to criminal prosecution. The Prosecutor may resolve the case by way of a section 810 recognizance after considering all the circumstances, including the victim’s views and public safety and the factors outlined in the Community Justice Programs for Adults Directive.

A decision to agree to a section 810 recognizance must be approved by the Crown Attorney or designate. In all cases where a Prosecutor decides a section 810 recognizance is appropriate, firearms and weapons prohibitions must be considered as conditions of the peace bond. A Prosecutor must not use a common law peace bond in intimate partner violence cases unless a section 810 recognizance is not available and even then only with the prior approval of the Crown Attorney or designate. The same considerations apply to the use of a common law peace bond as a section 810 recognizance.

Victim impact statements

As soon as feasible after a finding of guilt, the Prosecutor must take reasonable steps to provide the victim with the opportunity to prepare a Victim Impact Statement, and inform the victim of their right to present it to the court and their other options. The victim may be informed of these rights early in the process.


The Criminal Code directs the court to consider making a restitution order and to ask the Prosecutor if reasonable steps have been taken to provide the victim with an opportunity to indicate whether they is seeking restitution i.e. compensation for counselling. As soon as feasible after a finding of guilt, the Prosecutor must take reasonable steps to provide the victim with an opportunity to indicate whether the victim is seeking restitution for their losses and damages.


In cases of high-risk offenders, the Prosecutor must refer the case to the High-Risk Offender National Flagging System. In appropriate cases, the Prosecutor should consider whether to proceed with a Dangerous/Long-term Offender Application (see High-Risk Offender National Flagging System Directive and Dangerous/Long-term Offender Directive).

Where probation is imposed, the Prosecutor should consider whether the Partner Assault Program or other relevant counselling program is appropriate.

Reference should be made to the DNA Data Bank Order Directive, the Weapons Prohibitions and Forfeiture Directive, the Firearms Directive and the Indigenous Peoples Directive.