If one person commits a crime with another person as the victim, I can imagine certain scenarios where the crime goes unreported and therefore the perpetrator avoids prosecution. However, I can also imagine a scenario in which there are witnesses, perhaps even a police officer. Can the victim always just not press charges in these situations, and the perpetrator is free to go? Is there some threshold above which the criminal will be unable to avoid prosecution regardless of what the victim says?

If provincial jurisdiction matters, let's narrow it down to Ontario.

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    There are cases in which the victim's co-operation is needed for a prosecution to succeed but yours seems to be a blanket Question,intended to cover all cases. Am I mistaken? I was about to ask whether your witnesses, including police officers, could get a blatant murder prosecuted without the victim pressing charges, when I realised: it's a murder. There is no possibility of the victim pressing charges. Nov 16, 2023 at 23:43
  • @RobbieGoodwin You are correct in that it was a blanket, somewhat exploratory question. If I'm being honest...it comes from watching TV, where someone saying "I won't press charges" seems to get the person out of trouble :P Nov 17, 2023 at 14:58
  • Being involved in a prosecution is a major inconvenience, for just about everybody involved. I won’t press charges, really means that the victim is unwilling to be inconvenienced over the matter. That does not change the legal situation, but it greatly impacts the likelihood of a successful prosecution. And who wants to go to the trouble for an unsuccessful prosecution?
    – jmoreno
    Nov 18, 2023 at 3:05
  • Gosh, Michael - if only you'd included that in the exposition! Nov 18, 2023 at 17:25

1 Answer 1


The victim has a very limited role to play in charge approval. The charge will be brought either by the police or the Crown protector, depending on the province. This does not directly depend on whether the victim seeks a prosecution. However, the unwillingness of the victim to cooperate would be a factor weighing against a decision to charge, because a conviction is less likely without a cooperation of the victim. It would also affect the assessment of whether a charge is in the public interest.

The circumstances and views of the victim are listed as one of many factors in Ontario's charge screening directive.

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