An assault that takes place between partners in a relationship is a domestic assault. The policy of the Crown Attorney in Ontario is to prosecute these offences “with vigour,” according to the Crown Policy Manual.
Usually persons charged with domestic assault are held by police overnight for a bail hearing the following day. The Crown may seek to detain the accused person until the charge is disposed of, particularly where the accused has a criminal record for assault against the same complainant or where the alleged assault left injuries. If the court releases the accused, it virtually always orders that he or she have no contact with the complainant.
Domestic assault charges are not to be withdrawn unless “exceptional circumstances” exist, says the Crown Policy Manual. Police will subpoena the victim to appear at trial as a Crown witness. Crown counsel control the prosecution – not the complainant; Crown counsel can proceed with a prosecution against the complainant’s wishes. In deciding whether to do so, the Crown will consider, among other things, the strength of its case, the history, if any, of violence by the accused, and the extent of any injuries suffered by the complainant.
Victim is subpoenaed
A complainant who is reluctant to testify can be arrested and brought to court pursuant to a material witness warrant. A witness under subpoena who fails to attend court may be found in contempt of court. In practice, however, Crown counsel will try to secure a witness’s cooperation through persuasion rather than resort to such measures. Even if the complainant recants, the accused could still be convicted if the court admits into evidence an incriminatory videotaped statement.