Beginning a Private Prosecution
Section 504 provides that anyone may lay an information under oath before a justice where they have reasonable grounds to believe a person has committed an indictable offence. Section 504 states:
In what cases justice may receive information
504. Any one who, on reasonable grounds, believes that a person has committed an indictable offence may lay an information in writing and under oath before a justice, and the justice shall receive the information, where it is alleged
- (a) that the person has committed, anywhere, an indictable offence that may be tried in the province in which the justice resides, and that the person
- (i) is or is believed to be, or
- (ii) resides or is believed to reside,
within the territorial jurisdiction of the justice;
- (b) that the person, wherever he may be, has committed an indictable offence within the territorial jurisdiction of the justice;
- (c) that the person has, anywhere, unlawfully received property that was unlawfully obtained within the territorial jurisdiction of the justice; or
- (d) that the person has in his possession stolen property within the territorial jurisdiction of the justice.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 455; R.S., c. 2(2nd Supp.), s. 5.
Laying a direct indictment requires a written order of a judge under s. 574:
Private prosecutor requires consent
(3) In a prosecution conducted by a prosecutor other than the Attorney General and in which the Attorney General does not intervene, an indictment may not be preferred under any of subsections (1) to (1.2) before a court without the written order of a judge of that court.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 574; R.S., 1985, c. 27 (1st Supp.), s. 113; 2002, c. 13, s. 45.
Intervention by the Attorney General
There is no obligation on the part of the Attorney General to inform the private prosecutor that they are intervening.
Compelling Attendance and Issuing Process
Section 507.1, requires that the justice, upon receiving a properly laid information, refer it to a provincial court judge, who considers whether to compel the accused's appearance. Section 507.1 states:
Referral when private prosecution
507.1 (1) A justice who receives an information laid under section 504, other than an information referred to in subsection 507(1), shall refer it to a provincial court judge or, in Quebec, a judge of the Court of Quebec, or to a designated justice, to consider whether to compel the appearance of the accused on the information.
Summons or warrant
(2) A judge or designated justice to whom an information is referred under subsection (1) and who considers that a case for doing so is made out shall issue either a summons or warrant for the arrest of the accused to compel him or her to attend before a justice to answer to a charge of the offence charged in the information.
Conditions for issuance
(3) The judge or designated justice may issue a summons or warrant only if he or she
- (a) has heard and considered the allegations of the informant and the evidence of witnesses;
- (b) is satisfied that the Attorney General has received a copy of the information;
- (c) is satisfied that the Attorney General has received reasonable notice of the hearing under paragraph (a); and
- (d) has given the Attorney General an opportunity to attend the hearing under paragraph (a) and to cross-examine and call witnesses and to present any relevant evidence at the hearing.
Appearance of Attorney General
(4) The Attorney General may appear at the hearing held under paragraph (3)(a) without being deemed to intervene in the proceeding.
Information deemed not to have been laid
(5) If the judge or designated justice does not issue a summons or warrant under subsection (2), he or she shall endorse the information with a statement to that effect. Unless the informant, not later than six months after the endorsement, commences proceedings to compel the judge or designated justice to issue a summons or warrant, the information is deemed never to have been laid.
Information deemed not to have been laid — proceedings commenced
(6) If proceedings are commenced under subsection (5) and a summons or warrant is not issued as a result of those proceedings, the information is deemed never to have been laid.
New evidence required for new hearing
(7) If a hearing in respect of an offence has been held under paragraph (3)(a) and the judge or designated justice has not issued a summons or a warrant, no other hearings may be held under that paragraph with respect to the offence or an included offence unless there is new evidence in support of the allegation in respect of which the hearing is sought to be held.
Subsections 507(2) to (8) to apply
(8) Subsections 507(2) to (8) apply to proceedings under this section.
Non-application — informations laid under sections 810 and 810.1
(9) Subsections (1) to (8) do not apply in respect of an information laid under section 810 or 810.1.
Definition of “designated justice”
(10) In this section, “designated justice” means a justice designated for the purpose by the chief judge of the provincial court having jurisdiction in the matter or, in Quebec, a justice designated by the chief judge of the Court of Quebec.
Meaning of “Attorney General”
(11) In this section, “Attorney General” includes the Attorney General of Canada and his or her lawful deputy in respect of proceedings that could have been commenced at the instance of the Government of Canada and conducted by or on behalf of that Government.
2002, c. 13, s. 22; 2008, c. 18, s. 16.
Under s. 507.1(2), the affiant must present evidence that sets out a prima facie case, which requires 1) evidence on each element of the offence and 2) the judge or justice finds that the proceedings are not vexatious, frivolous or an abuse of process. Where both requirements are satisfied then the judge or justice has a duty to issue process.
Section 507.1 implicitly permits the justice the discretion to dismiss the matter where the judge "concludes the deponent of the information is mentally disordered or vexatious". When dealing with vexatious litigants, the discretion is "limited".
The judge or justice may not take into account whether the prosecution is unlikely to success or whether the attorney general is likely to withdraw the charges.
Section 507.1 implicitly permits a judge to seize himself to all subsequent 507.1 hearings that flow from the private informations of a particular person.
R v Lai Ping Lee, 2014 ONSC 2471 (CanLII), at para 7
McHale v Ontario (Attorney General), 2010 ONCA 361 (CanLII), at para 74
R v Grinshpun, 2004 BCCA 579 (CanLII), at paras 32-33
R v Halik, 2010 ONSC 125 (CanLII), at para 20
- Lee, supra at para 8
R v Whitmore, (1989), 35 O.A.C. 373, 51 CCC (3d) 294 (Ont. C.A.)(*no CanLII links)
R v Parkinson, 2009 CanLII 729 (ON SC),  O.J. No. 157 at paras 9, 20
Aasland Informations, 2000 CanLII 8548 (MB PC), (2000), 186 Man.R. (2d) 161 at para 7
R v Edge, 2004 ABPC 55 (CanLII)
Edge, ibid. at paras 69 to 73
Lee at para 8
e.g., R v Hu, 2014 ONSC 107 (CanLII)
R v Thorburn, 2010 ABQB 390 (CanLII) at para 77
Lee, supra at para 9
Waskowec v Ontario, 2014 ONSC 1646 (CanLII), at para 10
R v Grinshpun, supra, at para 10
Lee, supra at para 9
Section 507.1 outlines a requirement for a "pre-enquete hearing" before charges may be laid in a private prosecution, including before any issuance of "process" (ie. the prosecution process to be permitted to commence).
Involvement of Crown
Before process can be issued in a private prosecution, the private party seeking to prosecute must give notice to the Attorney General.
The Crown is entitled to attend the hearing, call or cross-examine witnesses, and present any other evidence at the hearing without being considered an intervener in the proceedings.
The Crown may seek to stay the proceedings under s. 579 at any point, even before the commencement of the pre-enquete hearing.
The purpose of the pre-enquete hearing is to "to determine whether process should issue to compel the appearance of the prospective accused to answer to the charges contained in the information".
Pre-enquete hearings are normally to be conducted ex parte and in camera.