News Release Archive

A pilot project to be undertaken in Dartmouth provincial court 
is expected to reduce escalating costs and delays created by the
backlog of cases in that court.

Justice Minister Bill Gillis announced today that a six-month
adult diversion project in Dartmouth will begin Feb.1.  Diversion
is an alternative to the criminal justice system for individuals
who have committed non-violent, relatively minor offences. 
Eligible cases are "diverted" from the regular criminal justice
process to this alternative process.

"One of the significant benefits of this program is the increased
accountability that offenders will be required to shoulder," said
Mr. Gillis, speaking in the House of Assembly.  "This
initiative will also help address the cost and delay issues
facing our court system and provide an efficient and accountable
service that will benefit victims, the community and offenders,"
he said.  

Diversion is a lower cost means of resolving many cases while
providing an avenue for increased community understanding and
participation in the criminal justice system.

Adult offenders (18 years of age and older) who have been charged
with either first offences or relatively minor offences
(shoplifting, mischief) will be diverted from the criminal
justice process after charges are laid, but prior to any court
appearance.  The case will be referred by police to the probation
officers operating the diversion project, at which time a
determination will be made as to the appropriate steps to be
taken to satisfactorily resolve the matter. 

The options available for resolution of cases will be similar to
those used under the Alternative Measures Program for Young
Offenders.  These include restitution, letters of apology,
volunteer community service work, personal service to victims or
charitable donations. There will be a signed agreement between
the offender and the diversion staff which, if successfully
completed, will result in no further legal action being taken. 
However, should the offender fail to complete the agreement, the
matter will be returned to court for processing in the usual

Immediate benefits to the court system will be apparent as a
large number of cases are expected to be diverted -- as many as
600 in the Dartmouth court, based on an analysis of 1993 cases.
Victims' increased involvement will result in them being better
informed and will increase the likelihood that the incident will
be resolved in an efficient manner, the minister said.

At the same time, he said: "Offenders will be held more
immediately accountable for their actions, will be more aware of
the harm suffered by victims, will be able to take responsibility
in a serious  way, and will have an opportunity to fully
participate in finding a fair and reasonable resolution of the

As part of the program volunteer community members who are
trained to function as co-mediators, or in other capacities, will
develop skills that will empower them to resolve conflicts which
arise in the community, and become more knowledgeable about the
criminal justice system's components and operation. 

The fact that an offender was charged, and that the case was
diverted, will be maintained on the police and community
corrections information systems.  The collection and retention of 
these records will be used to ensure offenders are not admitted
to diversion when they are ineligible. The diversion information
on offenders and the outcome of the case will be maintained for
five years, presuming there is no re-offence during that period.

The minister said the project will be conducted with no
additional expenditures, in that exsiting staff resources of the
Department of Justice will be utilized.

Following the pilot project, a decision will be taken to expand
the process to other areas of the province. A feasibility study
to develop an adult diversion model was initiated in May 1994. 

A September, 1994 workshop was held attended by approximately 85
individuals representing all components of the criminal justice
system, private agencies and members of the business community
who assisted in the design of the project.

Mr. Gillis said the feedback from the workshop was very
supportive of the initiative taken by the department.
Contact: Janis Aitken, 424-5775
         Peter Spurway, 424-6811
lm                                        January 11, 1995