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  • Joseph Horrigan

Understanding Canadian Criminal Law Acronyms.

As criminal lawyers, we deal so frequently with certain topics that as a time saver we will use acronyms. We have acronyms for the statutes we refer to, (CC, CDSA). We have acronyms for steps in the criminal justice process, (CPT, JPT). We have acronyms for programs our clients can enrol in, (PAR, EJS). We even often refer to dispositions in a shorthand, (810, NCR). Although a great time saver for those familiar with the legal language, these acronyms can cause confusion and create concern for clients who are unfamiliar with the justice system.

Your best route to understand the complex legal language which is often present in your initial disclosure package is to retain a knowledgeable criminal defence attorney who will be able to demystify this legal language. Below is a very short list of a few common acronyms used in the Canadian criminal court system and their meanings.

CC-The Criminal Code also sometimes shortened to CCC for the Criminal Code of Canada. The Criminal Code is the federal legislation that is the source of criminal law and procedure in Canada. The majority of matters being prosecuted at any given day in Canada will be charges laid under the Criminal Code. You will often see the acronym CC followed by a number. This number is the corresponding section of the Criminal Code under which the charge has been laid, (i.e. CC 265 (1) represents section 265 (1) of the Criminal Code which if you refer to the Criminal Code outlines the offence of an assault.)

CDSA-The Controlled Drugs and Substances Act is Canada's federal drug control statute. Like the Criminal Code, the CDSA is another main act under which individuals are charged. Offences under the CDSA are prosecuted by the Federal Crown Attorney’s Office unlike CC offences which are prosecuted by the Provincial Crown Attorney’s office.

CMHA-CMHA stands for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Founded in 1918, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is the most established, most extensive community mental health organization in Canada. For more information visit their website at Many individuals who end up in the criminal justice system suffer from underlying mental health illnesses. The workers from the CHMA do an incredible job ensuring these individuals are able to access resources which help address these underlying mental heath illnesses.

CPT- A CPT is a procedural step in the Canadian criminal justice process. It is often referred to as either a Counsel pre-trial or Crown pre-trial. At a counsel pre-trial, defence and the assigned crown attorney discuss the file. This discussion will include; potential resolutions options, time estimates for trial, number of crown and defence witnesses, potential outstanding disclosure issues, and other procedural issues regarding the file.

EJM-An Extrajudicial Measure is a referral from the police. Instead of pressing charges, a police officer may have the option to caution a young person between the ages of 12 and 17 for their actions and offer them an opportunity to participate in the EJM program. Should the young person choose to voluntarily participate and accept responsibility for their actions, he or she would have the opportunity to avoid criminal charges and a criminal record. In Peterborough, the EJM program is provided by the John Howard Society. The John Howard Society is an organization whose goal is to help reduce the incidence of criminal behaviour through prevention, support, counselling, courses and programs and to better understand and cope with the criminal justice system. For more information visit their website at

JPT-A judicial pre-trial is another procedural step in the Canadian criminal justice process. Like a CPT, a JPT is a discussion between defence counsel and the assigned crown attorney. The difference is that at a JPT there is a Judge present to help promote resolution if possible as the judge can provide his input on discussions. If resolution is not possible, the judge will help to narrow down the procedural issues and create an accurate time estimate for trial.

NCR-NCR stands for not criminally responsible. In Canada, no person is criminally responsible for an act committed or an omission made while suffering from a mental disorder that rendered the person incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or omission or of knowing that it was wrong.

OCJ-OCJ stands for the Ontario Court of Justice. All charges under the Criminal Code, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and Youth Criminal Justice Act begin in this level of court. The vast majority of cases are also completed in this level of court.

PAR-The Partner Assault Response (PAR) program is a court-ordered domestic violence program. In Peterborough, this is another great program provided through the John Howard Society. It offers individuals valuable information about how to create healthy domestic relationships.

RPC-In a criminal case, the Crown Attorney responsible for the case must determine if there is a reasonable prospect of conviction based on evidence that is likely to be available at trial. If not, they should not proceed with the prosecution.

SCJ-The Superior Court of Justice is a superior court of criminal jurisdiction. The court has the power to try any indictable offence under the Criminal Code of Canada. However, the Superior Court generally only tries the most serious criminal offences.

810-An 810 also commonly referred to as a peace bond is an order of the court that compels an individual to keep the peace and be of good behavior for a set amount of time. These orders are often accompanied by a non communication condition with the individual whom the court determined on a balance of probabilities had reasonable grounds to fear the defendant.

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