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

The justice system strives to foster the participation of victims and witnesses in the court process. Prosecutors have an important role to play in identifying those witnesses who may require assistance to fully access the criminal justice system, or to communicate their evidence to the court. Assistance may be provided to victims and witnesses who may not be able to fully access the criminal justice system, or to understand it or be understood by the other participants, due to language, age, or any impairment of an intellectual, emotional, physical or sensory nature.


Prosecutors must ensure that efforts are made so that victims and witnesses are provided with full and fair access to, and participation in, criminal proceedings. Prosecutors should be alive to barriers that may impede the involvement of victims or witnesses. Barriers might include:

  • attitudinal barriers about people with disabilities
  • communication barriers that occur because of a lack of accommodation
  • informational barriers making available accommodations difficult to access or find
  • physical barriers preventing people with physical disabilities from accessing the courthouse or courtroom
  • sensory barriers preventing people who are blind or deaf, or who have a severe vision or hearing impairment from accessing court proceedings.

Prosecutors should consider whether victims and witnesses require assistance to communicate or otherwise participate in the court process. Where appropriate, the Prosecutor should ensure the victim or witness is informed about accommodations that are available at the earliest opportunity.

Prosecutors must bring accessibility and accommodation needs relating to criminal prosecutions and witnesses to the attention of the Accessibility Lead in their office. The Accessibility Lead is responsible for responding to accessibility requests and will facilitate contact with the Court Services Division Accessibility Coordinator.

Prosecutors should also ensure that interpreters are requested where appropriate. In all cases Prosecutors should seek to use language appropriate to the age and understanding of the victim or witness.

Testimonial aids

Victims have the right to request testimonial aids and publication bans. Prosecutors should consider whether a victim or witness’s ability to communicate their evidence would be facilitated by the use of testimonial aids or other means that enable the evidence to be better understood. Where appropriate, Prosecutors should apply for an order permitting the use of a testimonial aid.

The Criminal Code provides a number of measures that can be invoked in particular cases to increase the ability of a witness in a criminal proceeding to provide evidence. Depending on the circumstances of the offence, and the circumstances of a witness, including their age and ability, the measures may include:

  • the services of a support person
  • the use of a screen or closed circuit television
  • the use of pre-recorded video evidence
  • the use of affidavit evidence
  • holding proceedings in camera
  • an order banning publication that might identify the victim
  • an order enabling witnesses to testify using a pseudonym
  • preventing cross-examination by self-represented accused.

Reference should also be made to the Directives on Publication Bans and Sealing Orders and Victims.