Victims' Bill of Rights
An Act Respecting Victims of Crime
An Act Respecting Victims of Crime – Victims' Bill of Rights, was proclaimed as law on June 11, 1996. The Act supports and recognizes the needs of victims of crime.
The Act includes a set of principles that guide how justice system officials should treat victims at different stages of the criminal justice process.
The principals stipulate that victims:
- are treated with courtesy, compassion and respect for their personal dignity and privacy;
- have access to information concerning services and remedies available to victims;
- have access to information about the progress of criminal investigations and prosecutions and the sentencing and interim release of offenders from custody;
- are given the opportunity to be interviewed by police officers and officials of the same gender as the victim, when that victim has been sexually assaulted;
- are entitled to have their property returned as promptly as possible by justice system officials, where the property is no longer needed for the purposes of the justice system (for example, to carry out an investigation, trial or appeal);
- have access to information about the conditional release of offenders from custody, including release on parole, temporary absence, or escape from custody;
- have access to information about plea and pre-trial arrangements and their role in the prosecution.
Making it easier for victims of crime to sue their assailants in civil actions
The Act also states that a person convicted of a crime is liable for damages to the victim for emotional distress, and bodily harm resulting from the distress. The Act makes it clear that a victim of domestic assault, sexual assault or attempted sexual assault is presumed to have suffered emotional distress. Subject to judicial discretion, the following measures are provided for victims in civil actions:
- An offender's sentence should not be considered when awarding compensatory damages; except in the case of punitive damages;
- Victims who are successful in their lawsuits are presumed to be entitled to reimbursement for most of their legal costs by their assailant;
- Victims are entitled to receive interest on awards from the date of the crime to the date of trial; and
- Victims who live outside Ontario and who are commencing a lawsuit will usually not have to post security at the outset of the proceeding.
In 2001, the Act was amended to establish the Office for Victims of Crime as a permanent advisory agency. Enshrining the Victims' Justice Fund in the Victims' Bill of Rights, 1995.
The money for the fund is collected through a provincial victim fine surcharge, which has been applied to all fines under the Provincial Offences Act (except parking violations) since January 1, 1995. Federal fine surcharge revenues are also collected in this fund. The surcharge is calculated on a graduated scale according to the amount of the fine.
For the full text of the Act, please refer to the following link: www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/statutes/english/elaws_statutes_95v06_e.htm