Trauma Informed Lawyers and Restorative Justice (4:X)
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by the Law Students' Legal Advice Program on August 3, 2023.|
A. Trauma-Informed Legal Practice
Many legal professionals are moving toward trauma-informed practice legal practice (TIP). Trauma is best defined as an emotional response to a disturbing or distressing event. In this sense, TIP recognizes the role of trauma in the lawyer-client relationship. The practice strives to reduce re-traumatization by identifying both past and ongoing trauma in the client’s life and by adjusting the lawyer-client relationship accordingly to enhance connections with clients for better legal advocacy.
What constitutes an appropriate TIP differs by client-and-lawyer. It is important for lawyers to first identify the client’s trauma and then adjust their relationship accordingly. Frustration often stems from clients not being well-informed of their lawyers’ choices. Then a general TIP may include, for example, making accommodations for client interviews or extensive preparations of a client prior to taking the stand to help reduce anxiety. For clients who experienced sexual assault, TIP may include active listening, emotional competency, and allowing for victim advocates to accompany in meetings. In any circumstance, the lawyer should take note of interpersonal and systemic violence as well as gender and cultural factors that could hinder a client from disclosing information. Furthermore, a client should feel comfortable asking their lawyer for additional support and resources. Also included at the bottom of this Chapter are some general and specific referrals.
Trauma-Informed Lawyering - acl.gov lists out the expectations for TIP.
For more general victim guides/manuals, visit Publications for Victims of Crime - gov.bc.ca or Information Guide to Assist Victims - publicsafety.gc.ca.
B. Restorative Justice
Community Accountability Programs (CAPs) are funded by the Province of British Columbia and offer an alternative to the criminal court process pursuant to s 717 of the Criminal Code and Part 1 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Many of these programs accept referrals from the police, the community and those impacted by crime. CAPs practice Restorative Justice, a philosophy that tries to address the needs of the victim, the offender, and the community. Restorative Justice programs look at the harms caused by crime, which may include harms to the victim, community, family, and offender. This process seeks to addresses the feeling of exclusion and isolation many victims feel in the traditional criminal court process, and instead provides them the opportunity to participate in decision making. While approaches may vary across programs, many use one-to-one facilitation, talking circles and conferences to work towards a confidential resolution that does not result in a criminal record for the person who has caused harm.
In order to participate in the Restorative Justice process, offenders must be willing to take responsibility for their actions and victims must also consent to the process and waive their ability to pursue other remedies regarding the same incident. Victims are often given a choice of whether they wish to meet with the offender face-to-face or not. Often the process only requires meetings with facilitators. The resolution can be a written acknowledgement of the impacts, a written apology, a gift, a restitution payment, and/or community service hours. CAPs also typically support each client's timely referral to counselling and support services, based on their unique and self-identified needs. Victims who feel that their needs will not be adequately addressed by the traditional criminal justice system are encouraged to learn more about the Restorative Justice programs offered in their geographic area by visiting Crime reduction through restorative justice - gov.bc.ca.
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