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More rights, better communication needed for victims of crime: ombudsman

More rights, better communication needed for victims of crime: ombudsman
From CBC - November 7, 2017

Victims of crime should be allowed to ask for a review of cases that do not result in criminal charges, including sexual assault complaints, according to one of several recommendations from a federal ombudsman Tuesday.

'I think this is directly related to Canadians' confidence in the criminal justice system.' - Sue O'Sullivan

Sue O'Sullivan,federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, released five reports after a months-long review of how to make the Canada's criminal justice system fairer. The review, conducted over the summer months, was in response to Justice MinisterJody Wilson-Raybould'smandate to review the criminal justice system and to enact policy changes.

One of the recommendations in her reports calls for victims to have the right to ask for a review when a case does not proceed to acriminal charge. She suggested a second Crown prosecutor would be able to review the file for a second opinion, and if that fails, there would be an option for a judicial review.

"I think this is directly related to Canadians' confidence in the criminal justice system," O'Sullivan told Giacomo Panico, host of CBC Radio'sAll in a Day,on Tuesday.

She cited the low charge rate and conviction rate for sexual assault complaints as a sign for the need for such legislative changes.

'Shift the thinking'

Pointing to a pilot project in the U.K., O'Sullivan said when victims are better informed about the process and of their rights it led to an increase in both the number ofwitnesses that could testify and early convictions.

"What I am saying is let's start shifting the thinking on this," she said.

"The system needs to be more flexible and adaptable in terms of particularly with people that participate, for example vulnerable victims such as children, older persons, persons with disabilities."

One of the reports also suggest putting victims at the centre of the debate over proposed plea bargains by allowing the court to hear from them before a guilty plea is made "in order to have the opportunity to have their views heard and considered." The report notes variations of this kind of law exist in Colorado and California.

The ombudsman also advocated for having victims make submissions to the court when a decision might affect their safety, such as in a bail hearing.

Speeding up the justice system

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