Department of Justice

Understanding the Court Process

Victim Services


If an accused enters a plea of not-guilty to some or all of the charges, a trial will occur on those specific charges.

If they plead guilty they will have a sentencing hearing scheduled or enter an alternative process. There won't be any trial.

The trial may take place in the Territorial Court or the Supreme Court. The trial process is similar in both (see Steps in the Court Process to learn more about which court might be involved in your situation).

Calling witnesses

The Crown Prosecutor and defence lawyer will call various witnesses to provide evidence at the trial.

The Crown Prosecutor works for the government. They are trying to show the accused is guilty by calling witnesses to provide evidence. They will generally call the police, the victim and any other people who witnessed the crime or can provide relevant evidence.

The accused’s lawyer (the defence lawyer) may or may not call witnesses, including the accused.

Any witness called by the Crown Prosecutor, including the victim, will likely be cross-examined by the defence lawyer.

Victim’s role at the trial

The victim does not have or need a lawyer in a criminal justice case. The Crown is not the victim’s lawyer - they work for government and act on behalf of the public.

If you are a victim, you may be concerned about being cross-examined by the defence lawyer. It can be an emotional and challenging experience.

But the accused's lawyer needs to be able to ask you questions as the accused has a legal right to defend the charges against them.

You will receive a subpoena that will tell you when you need to be in court to testify.

Victim Service Workers can help you prepare to provide evidence and to be cross-examined at trial.

You might also want to visit the Court Prep website pages on Witness Tips website or look at the guides for victims and witnesses listed on our Learn More page.

Finding of guilty or not-guilty

Both the Crown Prosecutor and defence lawyer will summarize their cases at the end of the trial. The Judge or Jury will then take some time to decide if the accused is guilty or not-guilty.

If the accused is found guilty of some or all of his or her charges, there will be a sentencing hearing.

If the accused is found not-guilty of all charges, any conditions that were imposed on the accused by the Court will be removed and the accused will be free to leave the courtroom.

Appeal Process

Following a decision at trial or sentencing, if the Crown Prosecutor or the defence lawyer thinks that the Judge or jury made a mistake, in law or fact, an appeal can be filed with a higher court.