Crown attorneys, or crown prosecutors, are legal professionals employed by the Ministry of the Attorney General. Their primary responsibility is to prosecute criminal cases under the Criminal Code.

Crown Attorney Key Responsibilities

Reviewing Charges

  • Crown attorneys do not investigate cases; they receive charges laid by the police. They are responsible for prosecuting criminal cases in court. Their first task is to carefully review each case and assess whether there is a reasonable prospect or likelihood of obtaining a conviction. If not, they should consider withdrawing the charge.

Ethical Obligations

  • Crown attorneys have high ethical duties. They are officers of the court and must ensure fair prosecution. This includes providing all relevant evidence to the defence, even if it may weaken the Crown’s case.


  • Crown attorneys engage in resolution or plea negotiations/discussions with defence counsel to explore the possibility of resolving cases without going to trial. They must present what they believe is an appropriate sentence, considering the facts of the case and relevant legal principles.

Sentence Recommendations

  • While Crown attorneys may sometimes recommend higher sentences, their duty is to propose a fair and just sentence based on the circumstances. This involves balancing the interests of justice with the individual circumstances of the accused.

Relationship with Defence Counsel

Collegial Atmosphere

There is a tradition of collegiality between Crown attorneys and defence counsel outside the courtroom. Despite the adversarial nature of their roles in court, they often work together cordially to resolve cases.


The relationship involves a balance of professionalism. While tough legal battles may take place in the courtroom, there is a level of politeness and respect outside of it.

Job Security and Ethical Duty

  • A unique aspect of a Crown attorney’s role is that they supposedly neither win nor lose cases. Their primary duty is to fairly present the evidence and pursue cases to their natural conclusion. This can include withdrawing a case if it becomes apparent that continuing would be unjust.
  • An old case from 1954, Boucher v. The Queen, highlights that a Crown attorney’s role is to present the case fairly, and they may withdraw a case if the evidence or circumstances warrant it.

In summary, the role of a Crown attorney involves upholding ethical standards, ensuring fair prosecution, and working collaboratively with defence counsel to administer justice within the Canadian legal framework and court system.

Video Transcription:

What is the role of a Crown attorney in Ontario? Well, first of all, Crown attorneys or crown prosecutors, as we sometimes call it, their lawyers who are employed by the Ministry of the Attorney General. And their job is to prosecute criminal cases under the Criminal Code, that’s their main role. And within that context of prosecuting cases they have many ethical obligations and duties. And one of them is for any case that comes before them, first of all, the police lay charges. The crown does not investigate.

Unlike district attorneys in the states, in some states, in many states, they don’t investigate anything. They receive charges that are completely laid and the decision to lay the charges is from the police. Once they receive the charges, their role is first of all, to review it very carefully and determine the first and foremost question. They must be satisfied that there’s a substantial likelihood that they can obtain a conviction. If there’s no substantial likelihood of conviction, they should withdraw the charge that’s a given and many charges that were gone because of that.

And then they must fairly prosecute the case going forward. Now that involves different things at different times. And one of them is, you know, defense counsel will enter into negotiations with them to see if the cases can be resolved the crown as an officer of the court and as their function crown. They must put forth what they believe is an appropriate sentence.

Sometimes that’s the higher sentence than defense counsel, sometimes that’s joining, actually agreeing, with the defence with the sentences, but ultimately, they’re officers of the court and they have to their bound by ethical duty. So it’s a very tremendous job in the sense of it’s a high, high ethical job just like defence lawyers are, and crown and defence Council working very well outside, there’s great tradition of crown and defence counsel so being collegial outside the court, minimal arguments, minimal vitriol, not the nasty letters you see going back and forth between family and civil lawyers.

Yes, we fight like cats and dogs in the you know, when I take the gloves off in the courtroom, but within the bounds of ethics still polite but as hard as we possibly can. But my relationship with the crowns is very good outside of the courtroom. We’re very polite, cordial, trying to resolve cases where it can fight like cats and dogs within the rules of law where we go to trial. So it’s a very interesting relationship. We have as defence counsel and crowns and both I think, do our jobs admirably in the province. And the crowns are to be commended by that, the great tradition of the defence counsel is to be committed by that. I also wanted to mention, there’s an old case called Busch versus the queen or King. Okay? Actually from 1954, and the interesting thing about being a crown attorney, Crown attorneys neither win or lose their job is to fairly present the evidence and press it to its natural conclusion. If the crown feels that they don’t have a case its withdrawn, even in the middle of trial. So don’t think that the crowns out there at least want to win or lose hats not their role its to present the case press it to its natural conclusion and that natural conclusion is sometimes in the middle of trial. I need to withdraw this case, the witness is lying. That happens and in fairness the Crown does a great job in our province and I really tip my hat to both the crown and the criminal defence particularly during COVID. Everyone’s done a good job, making sure our justice system has been operating at its peak.

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