Alternative Measures Program: If a Crown prosecutor decides it is not in the public interest to prosecute a crime through the regular court process, they can suggest that the offender be dealt with through alternative measures. According to s.717 of the Criminal Code there are a number of factors to consider for eligibility in this program. They include if the crime was minor, the offender's level of remorse and if they agree to enter some type of rehabilitation program. Failure to complete the program could put them back into the regular judicial system.
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Can my Admission Be Used as Evidence Against Me?
The Code states that admissions, confessions or statements accepting responsibility for a given act, given as part of the alternative measures program, are not admissible in evidence against that person in any civil or criminal proceedings.
What Are Alternative Measures?
The judicial system recognizes that not every person alleged to have committed an offence should be prosecuted. Alternative measures were introduced in the Criminal Code though s.717 in 1996 to enable adults and organizations to take responsibility for offences in certain circumstances without going through judicial proceedings. In some cases, alternative measures are used if the court is convinced the public interest would be better served by a resolution outside of the traditional criminal process. Addressing an offender's conduct through measures outside of the courtroom is also known as "diversion." According to the Alternative Measures section of the Department of Justice (DoJ) handbook, their purpose is to promote a sense of responsibility in the offender while promoting public safety, deterrence and rehabilitation.
What Form Do Alternative Measures Take?
The range of alternative measures is broad, allowing for each offender to be given a program that reflects the circumstances of the offence they are accused of and the personal issues they might be dealing with. These measures can include:
- community service;
- restitution or compensation in cash or services;
- enrolment in a counselling program to deal with drug or alcohol addiction or anger management;
- referrals to community, aboriginal or youth justice committees;
- victim-offender reconciliation programs; and
- a letter of apology or essay.
Who Can Be Given Alternative Measures?
According to the DoJ, Crown counsel determines whether alternative measures are appropriate in a given case. The offender stands a good chance of being enrolled in the program if they have no record, have committed a less-serious offence and are considered unlikely to reoffend. It also helps if they are remorseful about their actions and are not a risk to the community.
If the Crown is considering alternative measures instead of pursuing the regular legal channels, the accused must be informed of the alternative measures program and give free and full consent. They must also accept responsibility for the act or omission that forms the basis of the offence that they are alleged to have committed.
If the offender wants their charge to be heard in court they can refuse to take part in the alternative measures program. They also have the right to have legal counsel represent them in court. Alternative measures are an option for all offences unless the federal statute expressly excludes it.
When Are Alternative Measures Given?
The use of alternative measures can occur before or after a charge is laid. According to the DoJ, any discussion about them generally occurs after a charge has been laid and the file has been forwarded to Crown counsel, except in regions where pre-charge screening takes place.
When Are Alternative Measures Not Available?
Any of the following circumstances will usually preclude alternative measures:
- the offence included the use of, or threatened use of, violence;
- a weapon was used or threatened to be used in the offence;
- a sexual offence was committed;
- the offence had a serious impact (physical, psychological or financial) upon others;
- the offender was trafficking Schedule I drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy or methamphetamine;
- the offender trafficked a controlled substance near a school or in a public place frequented by those under 18;
- the offender trafficked a controlled substance to someone under 18; or
- the offender’s actions resulted, or could have resulted, in serious harm to human health, safety or security, the environment, a natural resource, a regulated industry or to the public confidence.
When Does the Program End?
Once the court is satisfied that the accused complied with the terms and conditions of the alternative measures, the charge will be dismissed. Section 717 (4) also allows for a dismissal of charges if the offender partially complied with the terms and conditions of the alternative measures, and the court decides it would "unfair" to prosecute the charge any further.
What if Someone Fails to Complete the Measures?
If the accused does not complete the alternative measure program, regular criminal proceedings may be ordered. However, the DoJ notes that before doing so, Crown counsel should determine why the measure was not completed and determine whether it could be completed. The department also advises Crown counsel to assess the appropriateness of proceeding with prosecution in light of those facts, as “exceptional circumstances” may make that unfair.