Trials

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What happens at a trial?

    In a trial, the court hears all of the facts of the case to decide if the accused is guilty of the crime. Both the Crown Attorney and the defence lawyer present their evidence and make their arguments. Evidence is usually spoken testimony from witnesses. There can also be physical evidence, such as torn clothing or the weapon used to injure or threaten.

    The Crown presents its case first. The Crown Attorney calls up witnesses and asks them questions. The witnesses are then cross-examined by the defence lawyer. Then it’s reversed – the defence lawyer calls up and questions witnesses and then the Crown Attorney cross-examines them. The person accused may or may not choose to testify.

  • I am a victim of a crime. Will I have to testify?

    The Crown can call on a victim of a crime to testify at trial. If you are served with a subpoena (a document stating you must attend court), you must attend court on the date specified. If you do not attend, you could be charged with a criminal offence yourself. If you do not wish to testify, you can get in touch with Victim Services or the Crown and let them know this. However, you may still ultimately be required to attend court.

    When called to testify, you must go to the front of the courtroom to be sworn in. You will have to state your full name, and swear to tell the truth. You will have the option to swear on the Bible, swear on a sacred eagle feather, or simply promise to tell the truth.

    Courts are open to the public. You can bring a friend with you for support. A worker from Victim Services may also be available for support. It’s a good idea to see the courtroom before the trial date, and if possible, to watch part of another trial. It will give you a good idea of what to expect on your day in court.

  • Are all criminal offences heard before a judge and jury?

    No. All summary conviction offences, including hybrid offences which are being dealt with summarily, are heard by a Provincial Court judge without a jury. Some less serious indictable offences also must be tried by a Provincial Court judge. There are some very serious indictable offences that may only be tried by a judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench with a jury. Such offences include murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Other indictable offences allow an accused person to choose (or elect) whether to be tried in Provincial Court, in the Court of Queen’s Bench by a judge and jury, or in the Court of Queen’s Bench by a judge alone.

  • What if the accused person refuses to choose where to have the trial?

    An accused person who does not make a choice is automatically scheduled for a trial in the Court of Queen’s Bench with a judge and jury.