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Public Prosecution Service develops specialized team for sexual assault cases in N.W.T.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022 @ 11:10 AM | By Amanda Jerome

On May 18, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) announced the creation of “a team in the Northwest Territories (N.W.T.) office to develop approaches to sexual assault prosecutions.”

According to a government release, this team was developed in response to what the PPSC learned “from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls National Inquiry about the experience of victims and witnesses.”

“It is painful to recount what has been experienced or witnessed during a sexual assault. The court process should recognize how difficult that is and try to help them share their experiences with judges and juries who must consider the cases,” said Annie Piché, PPSC general counsel, in a statement.

“We will focus on respectfully listening, communicating, and informing all witnesses and reaching out to communities,” she added.

The government release noted that the team “will be staffed with two senior prosecutors who know first-hand the realities of criminal justice in the NWT after working for many years in the PPSC NWT office.”

“They have extensive experience working with victims and witnesses who have suffered or observed sexual violence. The PPSC recognizes that the criminal justice system must be made to serve the needs of those coming before the courts in a way that allows them the ability to share their experiences in a supported, dignified and effective way,” the release explained.

The team will also “oversee all cases related to sexual assault, including providing assistance to other prosecutors with case preparation, prosecution strategies, and sentencing recommendations.”

“They will also assist and oversee Crown Witness Coordinators in working with victims of and witnesses to sexual assault. As well, they will reach out and work with community leaders to address the issue of sexual violence in the Northwest Territories,” the release added.

Alex Godfrey, chief federal prosecutor in the Northwest Territories Regional Office, said “this new team will help all of the lawyers and Crown Witness Coordinators to ensure courts can hear the voices of those affected by sexual violence.”

According to the government release, the PPSC “will be considering how the approaches developed in the Northwest Territories may help” in “supporting victims and witnesses in Yukon and Nunavut.”

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