Who Can Lay an Information?
As set out in section 504 of the Criminal Code, “any one” who on reasonable grounds, believes that a person has committed an indictable offence within the territorial jurisdiction of the justice, etc. may lay an information in writing and under oath before a justice, and the justice shall receive the information.
Section 504, Criminal Code.
By use of the expansive term “any one”, section 504 permits a criminal proceeding to be initiated by a private citizen, among others, by laying an information.
Justices of the peace have jurisdiction throughout Ontario.
Section 17(1) of the Justices of the Peace Act.
Section 504 of the Criminal Code makes it mandatory for a justice of the peace to receive an information, provided there is a connection between the person who is alleged to have committed an indictable offence and the “territorial jurisdiction” of the justice. In Ontario, the term “territorial jurisdiction” in section 504 refers to the province of Ontario.
R. v. Ellis, 2009 ONCA 483 (CanLII), at para. 39;
see section 17(1) of the Justices of the Peace Act.
In other parts of Canada, where legislative schemes governing the systems of court may be different, “territorial jurisdiction” may have a different meaning.
The Process of Laying an Information
The process for laying an information was clearly set out by the Court of Appeal for Ontario in R. v. McHale:
A private informant who wants to lay an information before a justice of the peace must complete a standard form for submission to the justice. The private informant must provide sufficient details of the alleged offence to permit an information to be drafted, and list the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the witnesses whose evidence will be relied upon to establish the truth of the informant’s allegations. The private informant must also indicate whether the police have investigated the offence alleged and describe any prior attempts the informant has made to lay an information or have process issued as a result.
The justice reviews the portion of the form that the private informant has completed to determine whether the allegations made satisfy the Criminal Code requirements and oblige the justice to receive the information. Where the justice is satisfied that the Criminal Code requirements have been met, she or he will direct the preparation of an information and have the private informant swear an oath or affirm the truth of its contents. Where the allegations of the private informant do not meet the demands of s. 504, the justice is not entitled to receive the information.
A justice who receives an information laid by a private informant, and determines its compliance with s. 504, selects a date upon which a hearing will be conducted to determine whether the process of the court, either a summons or a warrant, will issue to compel the appearance of the persons named in the information to answer to the charge [known as a pre-enquette hearing].
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.