Going to the Police

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Domestic abuse can be a criminal act.

The Criminal Code applies across Canada. It describes criminal offences and their punishments.

The role of police is to protect the public and lay charges. They investigate crimes and consider many things when deciding whether to lay charges. However, the Crown prosecutor makes the final decision about prosecuting the accused, based partly on whether they believe a conviction is likely.

How to Make a Criminal Complaint | Victims’ Services | Frequently Asked Questions

How to Make a Criminal Complaint

You can report a crime to police by:

  • reaching out to a police and court support advocate, who can talk with you about your rights, and offer options or referrals
  • calling 911, if you are in immediate danger or need immediate help
  • calling the non-emergency police line in your area
  • going to a police station
  • for sexual violence, speaking with a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) nurse/doctor at the hospital

Once you make a complaint, the police may investigate and gather evidence. They may interview you (the person experiencing abuse) and others who have evidence of the abuse, such as family, friends, caregivers or neighbours. They may also interview the person causing abuse.

The police can lay charges if they believe they have reasonable and probable grounds that the person causing abuse committed a crime. Sometimes the police will decide not to lay charges against the person causing harm. There are many reasons why, such as:

  • The police do not have reasonable grounds based on the evidence to believe the person committed the crime.
  • The police do not believe it is likely the evidence will lead to a conviction.
  • The police have not properly investigated what happened.

If you are not happy with how the police respond, you can:

  • Make a complaint against the police. Check with your local police on how to make a complaint.
  • Request copies of police records relating to your complaint. You can submit your request in writing to the police under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The police may charge you fees for this service. Contact the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta for more information.
  • Start a private prosecution at the courthouse against the person who caused you harm. You must follow a specific process. Contact your local courthouse or a police and court support advocate for information. The Crown prosecutor will take over the case and choose whether to prosecute the accused.

Victims’ Services

Victims of crime can ask for help from local victims’ services units (VSUs). VSUs can:

  • give information about the process
  • offer specialized help, including with housing, finances, and more
  • listen to your story and provide emotional support
  • help you communicate your needs and concerns to police or the Crown prosecutor

TIP | Find a Victims’ Services Unit near you by calling 2-1-1 or search online.

Frequently Asked Questions

What information do I need when I talk to the police?

What happens to the accused?

What is a peace bond?

Can police disclose information about a person with a history of abuse?

What are some reasons someone may not want to talk to the police?