Changes to Restorative Justice will Improve Province’s Criminal Justice System

**** NS Justice Media Release

Changes to Restorative Justice will Improve Province’s Criminal Justice System

Nova Scotians impacted by crime will now have greater access to restorative justice – a program that focuses on addressing and resolving the harms and needs of all involved.

Government announced today, July 16, changes that will help more Nova Scotians access the program. This includes new protocols that will allow some matters to be referred to restorative justice earlier in the justice process. Previously some matters could only be referred after a charge had been laid or after a conviction. A provincial moratorium remains in place for the use of restorative justice in offences involving domestic or sexual violence.

“Nova Scotia has been a leader in restorative justice for over two decades,” said Mark Furey, Attorney General and Minister of Justice. “Our successes have shown us that restorative justice is a path we need to be considering more often. The further matters advance in the justice system the more removed they are from community and the more embedded they become.

“These changes allow us to intervene earlier, involve community more and provide more meaningful and accountable outcomes for victims and offenders.”

Restorative justice focuses on the needs of those affected by a crime. It looks at why a crime occurred, how it impacts people and what actions are needed to help address the harms done. Those who have been affected, those who have responsibility for what happened and those who can support a good outcome are given the opportunity to discuss the crime’s impact and collectively decide on actions and plans to address those impacts. Actions might also include plans for expanded supports in the community to aid those vulnerable to criminal behaviours and reduce reoffending.

“I have experienced, first-hand, the benefits of restorative justice,” said Emily Watkins, a caseworker with the Tri-County Restorative Justice Society in Yarmouth. “I have seen individuals heading down the wrong path, take responsibility for their actions and do their best to repair the harm they have caused. And I have seen the positive reactions from victims who were given a voice, a voice that was heard.”

Police, Crowns, courts, correctional services, victim services, and the province’s eight community justice agencies have all committed to ensuring that referrals to restorative justice are consistently considered and made more frequently. This commitment has been solidified in a five-year memorandum of understanding.

Additional changes include:
— the establishment of regional lead teams, consisting of senior staff within community restorative justice agencies and senior probation officers. The teams will assess all adult referrals to determine the required supports and expertise needed for each specific case
— the establishment of a governance and management committee made up of government, community and justice system leaders. The committee will provide oversight to ensure protocols are being applied and that restorative justice is being used in all appropriate cases

Changes to the province’s Restorative Justice Program were led by the Department of Justice, along with leaders from the Nova Scotia Chiefs of Police, the RCMP, the Public Prosecution Service, the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Nova Scotia Legal Aid, Community Justice Societies and the Nova Scotia Judiciary.

National statistics have shown restorative justice to reduce repeat offences by 12 per cent.

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