Bring a complaint to the police after a crime
You can complain to the police if you are a victim or witness of a crime. How it works? How to prepare?
Where to complain
In Quebec, if you are in an emergency situation or feel that your safety is in danger, dial 9-1-1.
In all other cases, contact the police force in your area, or 9-1-1. The police will tell you if they are traveling to the crime scene or to your home to meet you. They may also ask you to come to the police station to file a complaint. For some small crimes, police forces allow you to do this by phone or online. For example, for a robbery in a car or vandalism.
If the offense occurred outside your area, it is possible that the police will transfer your file to the police force where the offense occurred.
Meet the police
The police will first fill out an event report with basic information. For example, the date of the offense, the place, the names of the people involved and a brief summary of what happened.
If you have been the victim of a crime, the police will then ask for your version of the facts (your “statement”). They will ask you questions and ask for details about what happened.
The police may ask you to write your statement. They can also write it for you and ask you to sign it.
Your statement is important for the future: it can be used if charges are laid. Make sure it’s as accurate as possible. You can contact the police to add information later.
Your version of the facts may be sufficient, but you can bring documents to support it: medical reports or photos, for example.
A friend, family member or counselor can accompany you to meet the police.
The police may ask that person to wait outside the room where you make your statement. They can also ask him to keep quiet when you tell your story.
The police will inform you of the next steps, whether you are a witness or a victim of a crime.
They are the ones who decide whether to accept your complaint or not. If your complaint is successful, an investigator will be in charge of your file. It is normally him who investigates and follows up with you.
The investigator then forwards your file to the Criminal and Penal Prosecutor (also called a Crown Attorney) if he believes he has enough evidence. The prosecutor then decides whether to lay charges against the person who allegedly committed the offense. If so, you will receive a letter with the name of the accused person and the charges.
This process can take a few days, weeks, or months.
Remove a complaint
Even if you want to withdraw your complaint, it is the police who decide to continue the investigation or not. You can contact the police officer in charge of your file to discuss your fears and concerns.
If your file has already been submitted to the prosecutor, it is he who decides whether he keeps the charges or not.
Is it compulsory?
Generally in Canada, there is no obligation to report a crime or to file a complaint.