Learn how to lay criminal charges by filing a private prosecution application with the Ontario Court of Justice.
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Alert: As of November 29, 2021, private prosecution applications are being accepted at the Ontario Court of Justice by email, mail/courier or in-person.
If you have concerns about your safety, you are encouraged to contact your local police service or call 911.
Usually, allegations of criminal activity are reported to the police who may lay a criminal charge after conducting their investigation. If you have evidence or information leading you to believe that someone has committed a crime, you can apply to lay a criminal charge by filing an application with the Ontario Court of Justice. This is called a private prosecution.
Steps in a private prosecution
Step 1: file your application
Complete and submit a private information application to any Ontario Court of Justice courthouse by email, mail/courier or in-person. Find the contact information of an Ontario Court of Justice courthouse near you.
A justice of the peace will review the application and decide to either not take action if the allegations do not meet the requirements of the Criminal Code or instruct court staff to prepare an information based on your application.
An information is a written document that sets out the criminal charge along with details of the alleged offence.
If court staff are instructed to prepare an information, you will be scheduled to swear or affirm the information before a justice of the peace. After you present the information under oath or by affirmation, court staff will schedule a hearing.
Step 2: the hearing
At the hearing, the provincial court judge or justice of the peace will hear and consider the allegations and available evidence of witnesses. The purpose of this hearing is for the judge or justice of the peace to determine if there is sufficient evidence to require the accused person to attend court at a later date to answer the charge(s) against them.
Step 3: the hearing decision
Requiring the accused person to attend court by issuing a summons or a warrant starts a criminal prosecution.
If the judge or justice of the peace issues a summons, the accused person will be served a copy of the summons that notifies them of the charge(s) and requires them to attend court.
If a warrant is issued, the accused person will be arrested by the police and brought to court before a judge or justice of the peace.
No summons or warrant
If the judge or justice of the peace decides not to issue a summons or warrant, the charges will be dismissed and there will be no criminal record against the accused person. This ends the proceedings.
The Crown Attorney’s Office must receive a copy of the information, notice of the hearing and have the opportunity to attend. During the hearing, the Crown can call and cross examine witnesses and present relevant evidence at the hearing. The Crown is required by law to watch over private prosecutions. To find out how the Crown may proceed regarding your private prosecution, read the Private Prosecution Directive.
Get legal advice
Court staff cannot give you legal advice. A lawyer or paralegal can advise you of your legal rights and responsibilities.
The Law Society Referral Service can provide you with the name of a lawyer who will provide a free initial consultation of up to 30 minutes.
Access a list of lawyers and paralegals in Ontario.