I've Been Accused of a Criminal Offence and Have Been Offered "Diversion", "Restorative Justice" or "Alternative Measures"
Police forces and Crown prosecutors sometimes choose to deal with minor criminal charges and first-time offenders outside of the court system through alternative measures. These alternative measures are often called diversion or restorative justice. Diversion is a program of community supervision by a probation office. In restorative justice, offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, to repair the harm they've done, and victims take an active role in the process. The range of options in a diversion program or through restorative justice might include making an apology to the victim, doing community service, and taking part in counselling programs.
Alternative measures are usually used for property crimes and offences that do not include violence. Some examples of where diversion may be appropriate include mischief, theft under $5,000, or other offences involving property.
If you are charged with a criminal offence, you may contact the office of Crown Counsel (the government prosecutor) and ask to be considered for diversion or alternative measures. In some cases, Crown Counsel may offer you these sorts of programs to you even if you don't apply. If you have a minor, dated criminal record from a past offence, you may still be eligible.
You must be willing to take responsibility for your part in the criminal offence. If you cannot take responsibility – for example, if you weren't the one who caused the damage or weren't there when it happened – you will probably have to go to trial to tell a Judge your side of the case.
Crown Counsel will refer you to a local or regional service — often a probation or community corrections office — which will supervise the alternative measures, whether restorative justice or diversion.
- Decide if you are prepared to accept responsibility for what happened. This does not mean you are agreeing that you are guilty of a crime, just that you did something wrong and are prepared to accept the consequences. If this decision is difficult for you, you should get some advice from a criminal lawyer. See below under "Where to get help."
- Tell the person offering diversion, restorative justice or alternative measures whether or not you accept the offer.
What happens next
If you agree to the offer, you may be expected to attend a meeting with the victim of your act and a facilitator. At the end of the meeting, you may be asked to agree to apologize to the victim and/or pay restitution (a sum of money paid to the victim for loss or damage) and do some community service work, such as stacking books at the library, mowing lawns or picking up garbage around public buildings. If you fulfill your obligations within the timeframe you are given, you will not get a criminal conviction. If you don't, your case could go to court. If you do not agree to diversion, restorative justice or alternative measures, you may choose to face the charges in court. See the section "I've been charged with a criminal offence and have to go to court."
Where to get help
See the Resource List in this Guide for a list of helpful resources. Your best bets are:
- Criminal duty counsel, for assistance on the day you have to appear in court.
- Access Pro Bono, Lawyer Referral Service, and private bar lawyers.
- The Clicklaw common question "How does diversion work and how can I get it?"
Before meeting with a lawyer or advocate, complete the form Preparing for Your Interview included in this Guide. Make sure you bring copies of all documents relating to your case.
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Lisa Jean Helps, May 2017.|
|Legal Help for British Columbians © Cliff Thorstenson and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|
In law, the federal and provincial governments and their departments and agencies. Lawyers employed by the federal and provincial governments to prosecute criminal offences.
In law, to formally deliver documents to a person in a manner that complies with the applicable rules of court. Service may be ordinary (mailed or delivered to a litigant's address for service), personal (hand-delivered to a person), or substituted (performed in a way other than the rules normally require). See "address for delivery," "ordinary service," "personal service," and "substituted service."
Something which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real property."
A person who is younger than the legal age of majority, 19 in British Columbia. Not to be confused with "miner." See "age of majority."
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