Witness Tips - Victim Impact Statement
What is a Victim Impact Statement?
A Victim Impact Statement is a written statement, describing how the crime hurt you and how the crime made you feel. In most provinces, there is a form to help you write your Victim Impact Statement. These forms may vary slightly so it is a good idea to check the Provincial and Territorial Links if you need information.
You may also want to view the Victim Impact Statement Fact Sheet, Department of Justice Canada.
What is the purpose of the Victim Impact Statement?
A Victim Impact Statement is your chance to tell the court and the offender, in your own words, how the crime has affected or is still affecting you. The judge is required by law to consider your statement when sentencing the offender.
Does every victim have to write a Victim Impact Statement?
No. Writing a Victim Impact Statement is entirely your choice. You do not have to give a statement if you do not want to and you can also change your mind at any time before the sentencing.
When should I fill out a Victim Impact Statement?
You should speak to the Crown prosecutor about when your Victim Impact Statement should be completed.
Who can fill out a Victim Impact Statement?
Any person who has suffered physically or emotionally as a result of a crime can complete a Victim Impact Statement.
In most cases, the victim of a crime writes the statement. In other cases, the statement is prepared by someone on behalf of the victim, for example, by the parent of a child victim, by a husband or wife or by a dependent or close relative of a victim who is unable to make the statement. If you are unsure if you are the right person to fill in the Victim Impact Statement, ask the Crown Attorney.
Where do I get a Victim Impact Statement to fill out?
The investigating police officer, Crown Attorney or an agency like the Victim/Witness Assistance Program will be able to provide a Victim Impact Statement form. See the Provincial and Territorial Links page for more information in your province or territory.
What happens after the statement is completed?
Once you have signed your statement, you can give a copy to the Crown Attorney. The Crown Attorney will give the written Victim Impact Statement to the judge. By law, you may read your statement out loud in court at the time the offender is being sentenced. Special provisions can also be made for disabled, elderly and child victims.
Once the statement has been entered into court, it becomes public record. This means that the sentencing judge, the defence lawyer, as well as the offender, can receive copies of the impact statement.
Although this rarely happens, the defence lawyer may question the author about the impact statement. It is important that the information in the statement is accurate. Find information on what happens in your province or territory by visiting the Provincial and Territorial Links page.
Can someone help me with my Victim Impact Statement?
There is help available; so don’t worry if you find it difficult to write how the crime has affected you. The investigating officer or the Crown Attorney will be able to direct you to someone in your community that will be able to help.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Write a rough draft first. It's a good idea to review the statement with the Crown Attorney or the Victim Services counsellor.
- Avoid writing anything offensive or harassing about the accused.
- Do not write about what you think the sentence should be.
- Include details about how you and your family have been hurt as a result of the crime but do not write about how the crime happened.
- Add things that would make you feel safer (i.e. no contact with the accused), as the judge can include conditions on sentence.
- Divide the impact statement into three categories: emotional, physical and financial.
About the emotional impact of the crime, write about any changes that have happened that you think are a result of the crime:
- How has your life changed or the lives of those close to you?
- What are some of the feelings you have been experiencing?
- What are some of the reactions you have had to cope with? For example, trouble sleeping or eating, difficulty concentrating?
- Has there been a change in how you feel about yourself since the crime?
- Has there been a change in how you are able to relate to others like your friends, your parents or other family members?
- Have you been talking to a doctor or a counsellor to get support or help you cope?
About the physical impact, you may wish to write about how you were hurt or any medical problems you have as a result of the crime:
- What are some of the physical injuries you or your family has suffered?
- How long did the injuries take to heal or how long does the doctor say it will it take to heal the injury?
- What medical treatment did you get or will you need in the future?
- How have the injuries changed your lifestyle such as going to school, work or playing sports?
About the financial impact, you may wish to write in your statement:
- How the crime has affected you or your family's ability to work or the number of days you missed from work because of the crime.
- If you have paid or owe money for bills because of the crime.
- The cost of medical, dental, psychological treatment.
- The costs of prescription medication or physiotherapy, etc.
Anything you include must be truthful, accurate and relevant to the crime of which the accused has been found guilty.