Many people will interact with the legal system over the course of their lives, whether through a dispute with a neighbour or landlord, an issue within the family, or interacting with the criminal justice system. In today’s post, we highlight some resources that would be helpful for those dealing with criminal issues, either as an accused, a victim, or a witness to a crime.
Clicklaw Common Questions
Clicklaw has a variety of Common Questions that provide good starting points for those interacting with the criminal justice system.
For those accused of a crime:
See the full list of Clicklaw Common Questions on this topic by using the "Crimes & offences" filter.
For those who are victims of or witnesses to a crime:
See the full list of Clicklaw Common Questions on this topic by using the "Victims of crime" filter.
Legal Aid BC publications
These publications are booklets, pamphlets, factsheets, and graphic novels created by Legal Aid BC. These publications span a variety of reading levels; some are appropriate for those with no prior legal knowledge while others are more suited to those with some familiarity with legal concepts. Publications are available online as PDFs which can be downloaded to print, and in print; free copies can be ordered through Crown Publications. Many titles also have multilingual options!
A Second Chance: This graphic novel uses narrative storytelling to discuss the rights of Indigenous peoples’, how to get help from Legal Aid if accused of a crime, and how to get a Gladue report. Curious what Gladue principles and reports are? Check out the section below!
Defending Yourself: Assault. This booklet is meant for those representing themselves in criminal court. It's part of the Defending Yourself series, which also includes titles on Breach of a court order, Mischief, Possession of an illegal drug, Possession of property under $5000 obtained by crime, and Theft under $5000.
If you’re charged with a crime: This booklet outlines what happens when someone is charged with a crime, providing first steps and the different options available. It also gives an outline of a person’s legal rights and how to apply for legal aid.
If you can’t pay your court fine on time: This booklet describes the three possible options if someone can’t pay their court fine on time as well as what happens if court fines are not paid.
See a full list of publications on this topic: https://legalaid.bc.ca/publications/subject/9
Gladue principles state that a judge must take individual and unique cultural circumstances into account when determining a fair sentence for an Indigenous person accused of a crime. This page from Legal Aid BC talks about Gladue principles and how they are applied: https://aboriginal.legalaid.bc.ca/courts-criminal-cases/gladue-rights
Legal Aid BC has also put together a variety of publications on this topic, which discuss what Gladue principles mean for Indigenous people and how the submissions and reports are made:
Gladue and You: This booklet explains Gladue principles and how they are applied in court. It is appropriate for those with no prior legal knowledge.
Gladue at Bail and Sentencing infographic poster: This poster shows when Gladue principles apply for Indigenous people during the criminal court process and when to get a Gladue report or prepare a submission. It is appropriate for those with no prior legal knowledge.
Gladue Submission Guide: This guide explains Gladue principles, what happens at a court hearing, what is included in a Gladue submission, and where to get legal help. It’s aimed at those looking to prepare an oral or written Gladue submission and is appropriate for those who may have some prior legal knowledge.
Dial-A-Law, a service of Peoples’ Law School, is a great place to search online for plain language legal information in a variety of legal areas. Some pages that may be helpful in this area:
If you receive an appearance notice or summons: An appearance notice or summons tell a person they must appear in court to respond to a criminal charge. This page gives more information about what to do if you receive one.
Charging someone with a criminal offence: This page provides information on the typical process of how the police and Crown counsel approve criminal charges in BC. It also discusses the process of laying a private information, which a person can do if the police elect not to lay criminal charges against someone. Learn more about laying an information (also known as private prosecution) here - https://www.courthouselibrary.ca/how-we-can-help/our-legal-knowledge-base/private-prosecution-laying-information-bc
Young people and criminal law: This page outlines the rights of young people when dealing with police or charged with a crime.
Being a witness: This page describes what a person needs to know if they are a witness to a crime and describes the process of being involved in a court case as a witness.
See more Dial-A-Law pages on this topic here: https://dialalaw.peopleslawschool.ca/category/courts-crime/crime/
Victims Information & Services in BC
There are unique services and information available to those who have been victims of crime.
VictimLinkBC: this service provides information and referral services to all victims of crime. It is toll-free, confidential, and multilingual service which is available 24/7 for those in BC and the Yukon. You can reach VictimLinkBC by calling or texting 1-800-563-0808 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Victims Info: this website provides information and resources for victims of and witnesses to crime in BC. It contains information on services available to victims, how to report a crime, going to court, and more. Check out their list of Frequently Asked Questions and their Key Contacts list.
Crime Victim Assistance Program: This program assists victims, immediate family members, and some witnesses of crime in coping with the effects of violent crime. The program provides financial benefits and is meant to offset financial losses that may happen as a result of crime.