Elk Valley residents caught committing minor crimes may be able to avoid prison time as part of an alternative measures program.
The Free Press recently received two letters from individuals who live in the valley who committed crimes and were given the opportunity to have their alleged offences dealt with through alternative measures. Part of their “punishment” included writing a letter to The Free Press apologising to the community for their crimes.
“Alternative measures programs divert cases outside of the court process,” said Neil MacKenzie, communications council for the Criminal Justice Branch.
The Criminal Code of Canada says that alternative measures may be used to deal with an adult over the age of 18 who has been charged with a minor offence, or if it is their first offence.
The individual can also only be part of the alternative measures program if they acknowledge responsibility.
“If they dispute the charge, they can enter a defence,” said MacKenzie.
Examples of alternative measures include compensation for loss or damage, an apology, or community service work.
MacKenzie said that the alternative measures programs have many benefits including that the individual avoids having a criminal conviction on their record and it reduces the demand on the court system because resources aren’t being used to hear additional cases.
Even in cases where charges have been approved, if it’s appropriate the case could be diverted out of the court system and alternative measures could be used instead.
There are crimes that are never considered for alternative measures such as first and second-degree murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, and hostage taking.
MacKenzie said that youth cases could be dealt with through alternative measures, but that it is a separate policy through the Young Offenders Act.
He also said that police often have a bit more authority to administer alternative measures in youth cases.
The Free Press was unable to publish the second letter received.