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An assault that takes place between partners in a relationship is a domestic assault. The policy of the Crown Attorney in Ontario, as set out in the Crown Policy Manual, is to prosecute these offences "with vigour."
Almost invariably, 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 was vicious. 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Domestic assault charges are not to be withdrawn unless "exceptional circumstances" exist, says the Crown Policy Manual.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 victim; Crown counsel can proceed with a prosecution against the victim'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 victim.
A victim 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, Crown counsel will try to secure a witness's cooperation through persuasion rather than resort to drastic measures. Even if the victim recants, the accused could still be convicted if the court admits into evidence an incriminatory videotaped statement.
Disclaimer: The material on this site is not intended as legal advice. It merely conveys general information on legal issues commonly encountered by persons facing criminal charges in Canada. If you are charged with an offence, you should contact a criminal lawyer.