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Criminal law

In addition to your family law case, you may be involved with criminal court as a result of the violence you have been subjected to in your relationship. This may be because your ex-partner was charged, you were charged, or you were both charged.

When the police become involved

At some point in your relationship, the police may have been called to your home. You may have called them for help. It may have been one of your children, another family member or a neighbour or friend who made the call, because of safety concerns.

What you (or whoever else made the call) may not have known is that, once the police are called, it is the police and not you who make the decisions about what is going to happen. This is because police in Canada follow a mandatory charging policy that requires them to lay charges in “domestic violence” cases where they believe there is evidence a crime has been committed, regardless of the wishes of the victim.

While this policy was rooted in good intentions and can be helpful to some women, it has also proven to be challenging to others.

You may have called the police simply to get some immediate assistance in an unsafe situation and have had no intention of seeing your partner charged criminally.

Benefits of police involvement

There are many benefits of having police involved when you are in an abusive relationship or trying to leave one. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Calling 911 can get you immediate assistance to keep yourself and/or your children safe in an emergency.
  • The police can hold your abuser accountable through criminal charges and conditions to keep you and/or your children safe.
  • Police involvement and charges can be used as evidence of the abuse you have been subjected to in family court.
  • Some women feel that when police lay the charges instead of them, it takes the pressure off them.
  • When women feel pressure from family or friends to drop the charges, they can explain that it is out of their control and that the police are the ones to lay the charges.
  • By calling the police for help, you are showing your partner/ex-partner, children and others that you will not tolerate the abuse any longer.

Concerns about police involvement

Once the police become involved, you may have some of the following concerns:

  • You may not have wanted your partner/ex-partner to be charged because you are concerned he will become more abusive in response; you didn’t want his employment to be jeopardized; you did not want him to spend time in jail; or you did not want to testify in a trial.
  • You may not have wanted child protection authorities to become involved with your family, which may happen if either you or your partner is charged criminally.
  • If your family or your partner/ex-partner is in the midst of an immigration or refugee process, you may not have wanted a criminal charge to threaten your partner’s or your family’s status in Canada. If you or your partner are in Canada illegally or either of you already has a criminal record, you may be worried about what may happen once police are involved.
  • You may be worried about the impact on your children.
  • You may be worried about backlash from friends, family or your community.
  • You and/or your partner/ex-partner may have had bad experiences in the past with police, such as racism or other forms of unjust treatment.