OUR VIEW: Restorative Justice could ease court backlogs

There is a backlog of cases in British Columbia's courts and a restorative justice forum could ease the burden.

There is a backlog of cases in British Columbia’s courts.

According to reports, there were 56 cases thrown out thanks delays in 2010 and 109 in 2011 and much of the same is predicted for 2012.

The provincial government announced in February that there would be nine new judges appointed to help alleviate the pressure but there are some in the legal profession who doubt that will help the large number of cases which are close to reaching expiration in the courts.

But there is something that can aid the provincial courts – a restorative justice forum, which the Boundary Restorative Justice Program and a number community organizations, including local RCMP, are involved in.

Based on the healing circle that First Nations use, it involves an offender and victims coming together for a face-to-face forum where everyone involved has a say and restitution is decided on.

There are case files which the RCMP won’t recommend for a restorative justice forum and the offenders must admit that they did something wrong and seek to make amends but the forum could be a good alternative for a number of other reasons, besides alleviating the crowded courts.

Those familiar with the restorative justice forum say that it is often more difficult for offenders to face accusers in an intimate setting as they have to address the victims personally.

Hearing first hand from the victim in that setting could put the offender on the spot and could cause the offender to feel more shame – it can be difficult looking the victim right in their eye.

Some say that the forum could be applied to a number of different situations where someone was harmed but it is often used for first-time offenders.

While some cases are fit for trial, some of the cases involving lesser offences could use the forum and even having cases of less severity off the court docket will mean less of a logjam.

A similar type of forum was used in a case involving former Midway mill owners Fox Forest Products, who disturbed a riparian area near the Kettle River.

Fox Forest Products took responsibility and donated money to the Granby Wilderness Committee to repair the damage, in a process those involved referred to as “quick.”

Taking Fox Forest Products to court would’ve taken longer and would’ve added yet another case to the already overflowing court system.

– Grand Forks Gazette