Nova Scotia to divert more criminal cases to restorative justice system

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia is taking steps to divert more cases from traditional courtrooms and into its ground-breaking restorative justice system.

Justice Minister Mark Furey has announced changes that will allow cases to be referred to restorative justice earlier.

Previously, a case could only be referred after a charge had been laid or after a conviction.

A new five-year memorandum of understanding commits police, prosecutors, victim services and the province's eight community justice agencies to ensure referrals to restorative justice are consistently considered and made more frequently.

However, a moratorium will remain in place for offences involving domestic or sexual violence.

The changes will also see the establishment of regional teams that will include senior probation officers to assess all adult referrals and a management committee to provide oversight and ensure restorative remedies are being used in all appropriate cases.

The restorative justice program brings offenders, victims and communities together to resolve issues without incarceration. It requires offenders to take responsibility for their actions and holds them accountable to the community and their victims.

Nova Scotia's program was established to handle youth cases in 2001 and the province became the first to expand it to include adults in 2016.

© 2019 The Canadian Press