A victim impact statement is a statement written by the victim or ‘complainant’ in a criminal case. The victim impact statement is to be prepared by the victim or a representative of the victim prior to the offender’s sentencing hearing.
Section 15 of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights provides that it is a victim’s right to provide a victim impact statement to the appropriate authorities. The sentencing court must take the statement into consideration when determining the appropriate sentence.
A victim impact statement should describe the physical, emotional, or financial harm caused by the offender’s actions. It is to describe how the offence has personally affected the victim. The statement should not include a description of the offence itself or comments about the offender.
The victim may choose to read the statement out loud to the offender and the court during the sentencing hearing. If the victim feels uncomfortable reading the statement out in open court, they may be permitted to read the statement from behind a screen or from another room over video. The victim may also choose to have the Crown read the statement into the record, or they may simply provide a written copy of the statement to the judge for consideration.
Where the victim is no longer living or otherwise unable to provide a victim impact statement, certain individuals including a spouse, family member, or other authorized guardian may provide a statement instead.