Criminal Law: An Overview

Victim’s Control over the Process

After reporting criminal harassment or sexual assault to the police, police may arrest the accused. The Crown prosecutor is responsible for pressing charges and overseeing the court process. The Crown prosecutor has most of the control in determining how a charge will move forward.  

However, according to the Victims Bill of Rights victims of a crime have a right to:

  • Information
  • Participation
  • Seek restitution
  • Protection
  • Make a Complaint

For more details, please see the Victims Bill of Rights Section.


Free – there is no cost associated with making a criminal complaint.

How long does the process take?

The process of convicting the accused of a crime can vary and may take years. There is a rule at common law that says trials should not take more than 18 months from the time a person is charged, and most trials are completed before this time.

Key Terms

Does the Criminal Code Apply to My Situation?

Section 264 of the Criminal Code prohibits harassment, commonly referred to as stalking. Anyone who follows someone from place to place or to their home may be found guilty of Criminal Harassment. Typically, this involves repeated unwanted contact or instances of stalking, but if the accused has engaged in conduct that made the victim fear for their safety or the safety of those around them then this may only need to occur once.

Sections 265 and 271 of the Criminal Code prohibits sexual assault and attempts at sexual assault. Anyone who touches or attempts to touch someone in a sexual manner without consent may be found guilty of sexual assault.

Reporting to the Police

To start the process of asking that criminal charges be brought to the person who sexually harassed you, the first step is to file a report with the police. If you decide to report sexual harassment of the police you will be asked to:

  • provide a description of the occurrence (what happened: who, what, when, where, etc.)
  • provide a statement that may be audio or video recorded
    • The recording can take place in a mutually agreed upon safe location
    • This recording may be used as evidence later, for example at a trial
  • clarify details through interview questions
  • provide the names of any suspects, witnesses, and bystanders
  • provide any physical evidence, such as photos of injuries and clothing
  • keep in touch with the investigator/detachment
    • contact them if you remember more details or information that might help the investigation

If you want your report to be investigated and the police agree an investigation is warranted, the police will:

  • gather evidence, such as a Sexual Assault Examination Kit statements, witness accounts, etc.
  • conduct interviews with you, the subject of the complaint, as well as possible witnesses

The police will then take the information and evidence gathered and compile a report on the events. They will send this report to a Crown prosecutor who will decide whether to press charges. If the Crown prosecutor needs more information, they may investigate the complaint further before deciding to press charges.

If the Crown prosecutor decides to approve charges, the police may serve the accused with an Appearance Notice. An appearance notice is an official document telling a person they must appear in court at a specific time and place to respond to a criminal charge.  The police may also order the accused to have no direct or indirect contact with the victim (stay away from them) throughout the criminal process.

Reporting to the Police: FAQs

Yes, you can have a friend or family member with you when reporting a crime to the police.

A sexual assault kit is medical evidence gathered by a nurse or doctor. A sexual assault evidence kit is completely voluntary, if you consent to having one you will be referred to a hospital or support centre to have one done by a doctor or nurse. You can have a friend or family member with you throughout this process, if you have no one available for support the hospital will provide someone to stay with you while a medical professional gathers the sexual assault evidence kit.

Medical professionals use a sexual assault evidence kit to collect and save biological evidence, such as:

  • bodily fluids
  • blood
  • hair
  • skin transfer from the perpetrator

This evidence is collected using swabs, blood samples, DNA samples and photographs. Once collected, it can help convict the offender when the case goes to court. Collecting these samples in a kit is most effective within one week of the assault. It is also recommended that you avoid brushing your hair or showering until after the kit is gathered.

The process for the kit is voluntary and requires your consent. You can stop the process at any time. While the evidence collected through a kit may help support elements of the crime, police can investigate even if an examination kit is not used (including if a survivor declines) or used outside the five-day timeframe.

Please Note: If you are unsure about involving the police you can have a hospital or support centre gather a sexual assault evidence kit and ask for the police not to be involved. The hospital or support centre will store the kit for a minimum of 6 months.

If you would like to have a sexual assault evidence kit gathered you should go to the emergency department at one of the hospitals listed below and ask for a SANE nurse (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner).

For more information please see Horizon Health Networks SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) Program page.

Horizon Health Network:

  • Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital
  • Miramichi Regional Hospital
  • The Moncton Hospital
  • Saint John Regional Hospital
  • Upper River Valley Hospital

Vitalité Health Network:

  • Campbellton Regional Hospital
  • Chaleur Regional Hospital
  • Edmundston Regional Hospital
  • Enfant-Jésus RHSJ† Hospital
  • Grand Falls General Hospital
  • Hôtel Dieu Saint-Joseph de Saint-Quentin
  • Tracadie Hospital

You can still ask for a Peace Bond, which will help prevent the accused from causing further harm. A peace bond may require the accused to:

  • not visit you at home or at work;
  • not call you on the phone;
  • not write you letters or send you messages;
  • not drive by your house;

To ask for a peace bond, go to the nearest police or RCMP station. Tell the police why you want a peace bond. The police will ask you to give a statement in writing stating why you believe you may be harmed. Be as specific as possible about your fear. If the police go forward with the peace bond when you ask for one, the respondent will be summoned to either refuse the peace bond or voluntarily agree to it. If they refuse, a court date will be set, and you will be expected to take the stand and answer questions about why you want a peace bond.

If you would like to ask for a peace bond, please review PLEIS-NB’s publication Peace Bonds & Protective Orders for more details.

You can make a request to Victims Services or the police for a no-contact condition. A no-contact condition prohibits the accused person or offender from communicating directly or indirectly with the victim. If a person breaks a no-contact condition, you should call the police immediately.

For more details, please review PLEIS-NB’s publication: Are You a Victim of Crime? You can ask for No-Contact with the Offender

Victim Services

If the Crown prosecutor decides to press charges against the accused you will be referred to Victim Services. Victim Services can:

  • Explain court procedures and your role in the court process.
  • Answer your questions about courts, the roles of various officials (judge, Crown prosecutor, defence counsel), and the accused.
  • Assign a court support person to listen to you, show you the courtroom ahead of time, go with you to court, and stand by to support you as you testify.
  • Provide information on publication bans and testimonial aids as required.
  • Provide information on sentencing outcomes.
  • Explain how to register for offender release information if the accused is incarcerated. 

For more information of how victim services can help you please see PLEIS-NB’s publication Going to Court: Service for Victims of Crime.

Mental Health Resources

If you are having emotional difficulties or anxiety because of the crime, victims’ services may refer you for Court Support Counselling or Short-Term Counselling. You can receive funding from victims services for counselling, however you must first make use of any coverage available to you through insurance or an Employee Assistance Program.

Court support counselling will help you deal with trauma, anxiety, or fear to help you give evidence in court. Short term counselling is meant to help you deal with the emotional effects of being a victim of a crime so you can move forward with your life.

Resources to Prepare you for Court

Victims Services can help prepare you for court by giving you a tour of the courtroom and a thorough overview of what the court process will look like for you. They may also be able inform you if you qualify to receive financial benefits through the Compensation for Victims of Crime Program. This program is for victims of crime who have suffered personal injuries or losses as a direct result of a crime. If you qualify, Victim Services will assist you in the application process. You may also qualify for Restitution, a payment that a person convicted of a crime makes to a victim to cover financial losses that resulted from the crime. Please see the Restitution section for more details.

Assistance in Preparing an Impact Statement

If the accused is convicted of the crime, you may want to prepare an Impact Statement that the judge will consider for sentencing. An impact statement is a written statement that a person affected by a crime can prepare for the court to consider when sentencing an offender. A victim tells the court, in their own words, about the harm done by the crime. Victims may include pictures or drawings to help explain how the crime affected them.

Victim Services can answer your questions and support you as you prepare an impact statement. For more information, see the pamphlet “Impact Statement Program”.

Yes, please visit our publication, Directory of Resources in New Brunswick for more details. Resources that may be of assistance include:

  • Sexual Violence New Brunswick: Crisis line for referrals and information and a Sexual Assault Counselling Program. Lines open from 5pm-8am, 7 days a week.
  • Community Mental Health Centres: deliver acute services, such as screening, assessment, 24-hour crisis intervention, short-term therapy, prevention, consultation
      • Click link above for more information on Mental Health Services in your area.

Victims Bill of Rights

According to the Victims Bill of Rights, victims of a crime have a right to:

  • Information
  • Participation
  • Seek restitution
  • Protection
  • Make a Complaint

For more information on your rights as a victim of crime, please visit our publication: Going to Court: Know Your Rights.


Victims of a crime have a right to specific information on the investigation, prosecution and sentencing of a person. Although this is your right, you must request the information. The police, public prosecution, corrections, and review boards will give the following information on request:

  • The status and outcome of your case;
  • The scheduling of any criminal proceedings, as well as the outcome of these proceedings;
  • The offender’s conditional release and the timing and conditions of such release;
  • Copies of orders about the offender’s bail, probation, and conditional sentence; and
  • Information about an accused who is under the jurisdiction of a Review Board or court, or who has been found unfit to stand trial.

If you wish to receive this information, you must register. Once you register, it will be your responsibility to provide current contact information to continue to be notified about the offender. If you wish to register for information and updates on the accused, Victim Services can provide information and assistance.

Resources to Prepare you for Court

Victims Services can help prepare you for court by giving you a tour of the courtroom and a thorough overview of what the court process will look like for you. They may also be able inform you if you qualify to receive financial benefits through the Compensation for Victims of Crime Program. This program is for victims of crime who have suffered personal injuries or losses as a direct result of a crime. If you qualify, Victim Services will assist you in the application process. You may also qualify for Restitution, a payment that a person convicted of a crime makes to a victim to cover financial losses that resulted from the crime. Please see the Restitution section for more details.


The Victims Bill of Rights gives victims two specific rights that relate to participation in the criminal justice process:

  • The right to present an impact statement and have it considered in court; and
  • The right to have your views considered when a decision is being made that may affect your rights as a victim.

Victims’ services can assist you in preparing to participate in the court procedure. For more information please visit the Impact Statement section.


The Victims Bill of Rights gives victims the right to both security and privacy at every step of the criminal justice process.

Depending on the specifics of your case, when victims testify in court, they may be entitled to a variety of protections. These may include:

  • giving testimony by closed-circuit television;
  • testifying behind a screen; or
  • testifying with a support person nearby.

These protections must be provided to victims from certain vulnerable groups; however, other victims can ask the judge to permit them to use testimonial aids to help them feel safe while testifying. When you ask for a testimonial aid, the court must consider your security and protection as well as the requirements for a fair and open criminal justice process.

The Victims Bill of Rights also provides protection against retaliation through no-contact conditions. See the Reporting to Police FAQ Section for more details.


Restitution is a payment made by a person convicted of a crime to a victim to cover financial losses that resulted from the crime.

The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights provides victims of crime with the right to ask the court to consider making a restitution order if the court finds the accused guilty of the crime. Victim Services can explain how to request restitution from the offender and how to apply to the court.

How to Apply for Restitution:

To ask for restitution, you must complete a Statement on Restitution Form. The police will give you this form along with a fact sheet explaining restitution.

The court provides restitution in criminal matters for losses that are easy to calculate, so it is important to indicate any specific financial loss you may have suffered because of the crime such as lost wages, medical expenses etc.

Once you complete the form, give it to the police and include copies of any documents to support your claim for restitution, such as bills, receipts letters from employers, estimates, etc. The police will give the form to the Crown prosecutor.


The Victims Bill of Rights provides victims of crime with the right to complain if they feel that their rights were not respected or were denied. If you believe your rights as a victim have been violated, you can file a complaint with the agency responsible such as:

  • The police,
  • Victim Services,
  • Corrections and Parole, or
  • Crown Prosecutors

For more information on where you may file a complaint, please visit our publication Are You a Victim of Crime? File a Complaint.

The Trial Process

If a case goes to trial, it will be the Crown prosecutor’s responsibility to satisfy the court beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime. Anyone who has information relevant to the case may be a witness. Sometimes the witness may be the victim of a crime.

During the trial process, the Crown prosecutor will call on witnesses to give evidence under oath. In a criminal trial, evidence is anything relevant to the guilt or innocence of the accused.  Evidence may be physical evidence like copies of texts, emails, or documents. It may also be what a witness saw, heard, or experienced.


The Trial Process: FAQs

You can agree to be a witness. However, the court can also order you to be a witness by serving you a subpoena. A subpoena is a legal document that says you must be a witness and for which side. The subpoena will provide you with the date and time you must be in court and the location of the court.  You may be asked to meet with the Crown Prosecutor at some point before the trial to review your evidence.

A victim does not press charges, only the crown prosecutor has the power to press charges. Therefore, once you file a complaint with the police, the case against the accused is in the hands of the Crown. You may express your wishes to drop the charges to the police or the crown, however whether they proceed with the trial is at their sole discretion.

You will give your evidence in person in court under oath. The Crown Prosecutor and the defence lawyer have a chance to question you. You cannot give evidence in writing. The criminal law provides special protections to help “vulnerable victims” give their evidence. Any victim or witness with a mental or physical disability that impairs their ability to testify may ask the Court to let them testify from a place outside the courtroom using close circuit TV or from behind a screen. They are automatically eligible for testimonial aids, having a court support person stand beside them, and other protections.

Other victims may apply for testimonial aids and the Court will decide if they are eligible by considering their age, the nature of the offence, and their relationship to the accused. If you wish to have testimonial aids, Victims Services can assist you. Please see our publication Vulnerable Victims of Crime…Making it Easier to Testify in Court for more details.

Before you give your evidence, you must swear to tell the truth or solemnly affirm you will tell the truth. To swear an oath, a court clerk or the judge will give you a holy item such as a Bible, Quran, Torah, or Eagle Feather and ask you to swear to tell the truth. This is called swearing in the witness. When you are sworn in, you are under oath. As an alternative to swearing an oath on a religious item, you may solemnly declare to tell the truth. If the witness is a child or has an intellectual disability, they may be asked to promise to tell the truth rather than swear or solemnly declare.


Contact Us

Contact the New Brunswick Victim Services office closest to you find out more about our services.

General Inquiries:

Victim Services, New Brunswick

Tel.: 506-453-3992 


Mailing Adress:

Victim Services, New Brunswick

P.O. Box 6000 

Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1 

Bathurst Regional Office

Campbellton Regional Office

Edmundston Regional Office

Elsipogtog Regional Office

Fredericton Regional Office

Miramichi Regional Office

Moncton Regional Office

145 Assumption Blvd.  Room 105
Moncton, NB

Saint John Regional Office

Caraquet Regional Office

182 Boulevard Saint-Pierre Ouest
Caraquet, NB

Woodstock Regional Office

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If you require legal advice or are concerned about a workplace sexual harassment situation, please call a lawyer.