Even if the victim of an assault decides that he or she does not want to press charges or no longer wants to press charges, the Crown Prosecutor may still prosecute the case. Assault is taken very seriously by the police and by our Courts, so while it is preferable for the Crown if the victim cooperates, the Crown can, and often does proceed even if the victim no longer wishes to testify against the accused.
When a victim changes his or her mind about pressing charges and no longer wishes to testify against the accused, the Crown Prosecutor can still subpoena the complainant into court and compel them to answer questions about the assault. In such a situation, the complainant will become what we refer to as a hostile witness. This means that even though the complainant does not want to take the stand, they will still be obliged to do so by law. Further, once on the stand they will be required to answer questions truthfully, or else they can face criminal charges for perjury.
Where the victim of the assault is no longer available for trial or will not show up for trial, it is still possible for the Crown to pursue a conviction even without the victim’s live testimony. In some cases the Crown may actually be able to use statements that the complainant previously gave the police to convict you in trial. Further, to prove your guilt the Crown can also draw on evidence such as the testimony of witnesses who saw the offence, or medical records that provide evidence of the injuries suffered by the victim following the offence.
As such, even if a victim has changed his or her mind about pressing charges against you, it is still crucial to retain a criminal defence lawyer to protect your interests. Your lawyer can use his or her familiarity with legal proceedings to argue for the exclusion of incriminating evidence against you, or your lawyer can conduct effective negotiations with the Crown to try to secure you a resolution that will ensure that you walk away from your charges without a criminal record.