Recant Letters

Recant Letters in Domestic Violence Cases: A Comprehensive Guide

Domestic violence is a serious issue that affects millions of people worldwide. When a victim/complainant reports an incident of domestic violence to the police, this triggers a process of criminal prosecution which can be very difficult to stop. However, in some cases, victims may choose to recant their statements and this can have a significant impact on the prosecution’s ability to proceed with the charges. We will explore the topic of recant letters in domestic violence cases and provide you with a comprehensive guide on what you need to know.

The term “recanting” refers to the act of retracting or withdrawing a previous statement or testimony. A recant letter is a sworn statement (also known as an affidavit) in which a person retracts or denies a previous statement they have made. In the context of domestic violence cases, a recant letter may be written by a complainant/victim to retract or clarify a statement which they previously made to police. This may result in the prosecutor withdrawing the criminal charges against the accused.
Once a recant statement has been drafted and sworn, a victim/complainant can submit the letter to the Crown Attorney’s office (i.e. prosecutor’s office), the police, or the accused’s lawyer. The letter will form part of the evidence in the case, and may result in the prosecutor having to withdraw the charge(s).

In Ontario, a complainant in a domestic violence case may retract their statement to the police. However, this does not guarantee that the charges will be dropped. The Crown Attorney’s office will consider a number of factors when deciding whether to proceed with the charges. This includes the strength of the evidence without the complainant’s statement, the likelihood of a conviction, and the public interest in continued prosecution.

Additionally, there are some risks and limitations associated with submitting a recant letter. These risks include:

  • Perjury
    • Perjury is the serious crime of lying under oath. It is proscribed under section 131 of the Criminal Code and can carry a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment. When a recant affidavit is drafted, it is a statement made under oath. The complainant’s affidavit will potentially be subject to cross-examination on the material written. Where any information in the affidavit is proven to be false, the author of the affidavit may be found guilty of perjury.
  • Public Mischief
    • Section 140 of the Criminal Code prohibits the crime of public mischief. Intentionally misleading the police by falsely accusing another person of a crime or reporting that an offence has been committed when it has not been committed can both constitute public mischief. If found guilty of public mischief, you could be sentenced to a maximum of 5 years imprisonment.
  • KGB Statements
    • In the Supreme Court of Canada case R v B(KG), the Supreme Court determined that a fully videotaped statement under oath can still be admissible at trial even if the statement is later recanted.
  • Contact with the accused
    • Often, when those accused of domestic assault charges are released on bail, one of the conditions they must abide by is to not make any contact with the victim/complainant. Considering this, if it is discovered that the accused has met with the complainant since being charged, the Crown may not accept the recant letter as being the truth.

The absolute best thing to do when considering recanting a statement is to speak to a lawyer for independent legal advice (i.e. with a different lawyer than the one representing the accused).

In some cases, criminal charges can be dropped before the first court appearance. This may happen if the Crown Attorney’s office determines that there is insufficient evidence to proceed with the charges. The decision to drop charges before court is ultimately up to the Crown Attorney’s office.

If you are the complainant in a domestic violence case and you want to get the charges dropped, there are a few steps you can take:

  1. Consider speaking to a lawyer who can help you navigate the criminal justice system and understand your rights and options.
    • At Lakin Afolabi Law, here are the steps that we take to help you when you approach us with the desire to recant a previous statement:
      • First, after contacting us, we’ll have a consultation. Here, we review the facts of the case with you, listen to your story, and help you determine whether recanting a statement is a viable option for you.
      • If you choose to proceed with the process of recanting your statement after speaking with us, we will help you draft your recant letter. This letter can only contain the truth. Once you are satisfied with the letter, we will then commission it (i.e. have you swear that the letter is the truth) and provide a copy to you to provide to the police, the Crown’s office, and/or the accused’s lawyer.
      • Upon receipt, the Crown is required to disclose this letter to the accused’s lawyer.
  2. Write a recant letter and have it commissioned. Provide the letter to the Crown Attorney’s office, the police, or the accused’s lawyer.

Remember that the decision to drop the charges is ultimately up to the Crown Attorney reviewing the case. It is important to understand that recanting your statement may have serious criminal consequences such as being charged with public mischief or perjury.

At Lakin Afolabi Law, we pride ourselves as experts in assisting complainants who are looking to recant their statements. We are empathetic, compassionate, multilingual, and extremely hard-working. We take a human approach to law, where you do not merely watch us work on your case, but rather, take on an active role in helping us work towards the outcome that you want. We know the law, and you know the facts.

If you are considering drafting a recant statement, contact our office for a consultation today.

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