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Witness Statements

When you report a crime, the police may ask you to make a full statement that includes everything you can remember about the incident.

This is known as a witness statement. Your witness statement is not the same thing as a Victim Impact Statement because your witness statement is about what you saw or heard happen during or just after an offence but a Victim Impact Statement is about the effect of an offence on a victim.

How to Give a Witness Statement

Sometimes, the police will make an audio or video tape of the interview you give. Then, after hearing what happened, the police will either ask you to write out what you have told them, or the police will write out the statement themselves. In either case, you will be asked to read through the written statement and sign it. If you later remember some relevant details or information, that information can and should be provided to the police as soon as possible.

When you are asked to complete a witness statement, you may find that some questions may be embarrassing or seem inconsequential. But remember that, in order to do their job, the police will need to know all the details of what happened. If you do not know the perpetrator, sometimes seemingly unimportant details may help the police identify the person.

Once you give your witness statement, you may request a copy of it and should review it to make sure it is accurate and complete. If you are called as a witness at the trial, you may be asked questions about this statement.

Who Gets a Copy of the Witness Statement

Although witness statements are crucial to the police investigation and to Crown counsels’ review of that investigation, they are not normally provided to the judge at trial. The judge only knows what is given in evidence in the courtroom about the offence. Nonetheless, defence counsel receives a copy of the witness statements and differences between the contents of the statements and the contents of testimony may be the subject of questions during the court proceedings.

What Happens Next

After taking a statement, the police may want to go with the victim to the scene of the crime.

If the suspect is not known to the victim, the police may ask the victim to:

  • look at photos of people (often referred to as mug shots)
  • view a line-up of people whose features may be similar to those of the perpetrator as described
  • describe the offender’s features to an artist who will make a composite drawing from the description (police artists usually work only in major cities).

The police may also want to take pictures of the victim’s injuries right away. In that event, a police photographer will take photographs of the victim either at the hospital or the police station. This process may be difficult but photographs are very important because long after the injuries have healed, the photographs will provide evidence.

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