Crown counsel are the lawyers who prosecute criminal offences on behalf of society. In this role, Crown counsel make decisions about if and how to proceed in criminal cases of elder abuse and abuse of vulnerable adults. When prosecution is the best solution, it is not always pursued due to knowledge and policy gaps to support the meaningful participation of adults with capability issues in the criminal justice system.

Acknowledging the difficult task undertaken by Crown counsel, strong policies are necessary to support the prosecution of cases involving elder abuse- but also to support victims of such crimes. It is important that policies also inform police, court and victim service workers in dealing with this population. Consistency in responses throughout the province is important.

CCEL conducted a one-year research project that included extensive consultation with police, victims service workers, criminal law practitioners, and others when prosecution of a criminal offence involving an adult with capability issues is indicated to identify barriers facing vulnerable adults in the criminal justice system. In understanding the barriers, CCEL assessed best practices in other jurisdictions to determine:

  • how to best support the practice of Crown counsel in BC;
  • better understand capacity and ways to support adults suffering from cognitive impairments;
  • provide best practices that could be implemented in BC Crown counsel policies and, more generally, the criminal justice system; and
  • promote inter-agency cooperation and collaboration of Crown, police, victims’ services, and others when prosecuting criminal offences involving vulnerable adults.

This Study Paper provides:

  • an overview of the criminal justice system;
  • current testimonial accommodations for vulnerable adults;
  • an overview of the rights of a vulnerable adult victim or witness;
  • an overview of the barriers facing vulnerable adults within the current criminal justice system;
  • comparative research on Crown prosecution policies related to elder abuse, dementia, and adults with capability issues; and
  • recommended best practices to support BC and federal Crown in developing policies to support vulnerable adults in the criminal justice system.


This project is funded by the BC Council to Reduce Elder Abuse and the Department of Justice Canada’s Victim Fund.

Webinar Recording:
Supporting Vulnerable Witnesses in the Criminal Justice System

Related Files

Below you will find additional, relevant and specific documentation, backgrounders, research, resources, media releases and summaries that have been, or will be incorporated into our final publications and study papers.

If you have questions about these or other specific documents, please reach out to BCLI using our contact page or at the bottom of each page of our website.