Does a victim of a youth crime have rights?
Being a victim of any crime is a difficult experience. Depending on the crime the victim can feel loss, fear, anger, and resentment. It can affect their health, well being, confidence, attitudes and relationships. Victims may also want to better understand why the youth committed the crime. Often victims feel they have little voice in the criminal justice system.
It is important that victims suffer the least amount of inconvenience as a result of their involvement with the youth criminal justice system. You have the right to this.
If you are a victim, you will be:
- provided with information about how the young offender is being dealt with
- given an opportunity to be heard and tell your story if you want to.
You can help the young offender acknowledge and repair the harm they have done to you. You will have an opportunity to participate in decisions related to the young offender’s actions if you choose.
The YCJA takes into account the interests of victims to ensure accountability through meaningful consequences, rehabilitation and reintegration of young offenders.
Young offenders are encouraged to repair the harm they have cause to victims with the understanding that victims should be treated with compassion and respect.
If you are an adult victim the Crown Attorney can apply for an order to ban the publication of the identity of victims or witnesses. In sexual assault cases or cases where the victim or witness is under the age of 18, you have a right to a publication ban. Otherwise the judge must be convinced there is a good reason for ordering a publication ban.
Do I have a right to information about the youth and the court proceedings?
As a victim of a youth crime, you have the right to information about the different stages of the judicial process.
You have the right to know the identity of the youth who committed the crime against you (if you don’t already know) and how the justice system is dealing with them.
You do not have the right to make the youth’s name public. There are specific rules around publishing the names of young persons under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
If the young person has been referred to a restorative justice program, you have the right to know what happens during this process.
You can make a request for information within two years of the young person agreeing to participate in extrajudicial sanctions (the restorative justice program)
You have the right to see the court record of the case at any stage of the process. You will also be kept aware of any court hearings involving the youth.
What is a Victim Impact Statement?
A victim Impact statement is written by the victim and explains how he or she was affected by a crime. It describes the harm caused and is intended to give victims of crime a voice in the judicial process. You can explain in your own words how you have been affected by the crime and how it has made you feel.
You can write the Victim Impact statement or ask another person to write it on your behalf. It is your choice as to whether you write a victim impact statement. If the crime has affected friends or family, they are also allowed to write a victim impact statement.
The judge must consider the Victim Impact statement before sentencing a youth who has been found guilty. If no victim statement has been filed, the judge must ask if the victim has been given the opportunity to write one.
What is Restorative Justice?
Restorative Justice (RJ) is a different way of thinking about crime and conflict. It is an alternative to the court process decided on by the traditions and preferences of the community. Within the Restorative Justice Framework crime is seen as a harm done to victims and communities, as a victim you are a key player in how to repair the harm that has been done.
The offender, victim and community can all participate in the RJ process. The focus is the long term protection of the public and other ways of solving problems aside from the traditional court process.
The program aims to solve the problem of crime, rather than just punishing the young offender for their actions. Punishment may not promote acceptance of responsibility and may expose the youth to potentially harmful jail time. RJ encourages acceptance of responsibility, repentance and forgiveness. Instead of further alienating offenders, youth are given the tools to acknowledge the harm they have caused and make it right. By taking responsibility for their actions offender are much less likely to reoffend which is much more valuable to the community.
Within the typical court process, victims often feel left out and have little input in the process. Within the RJ program you get the opportunity to talk about how this crime has affected you while giving you an opportunity to restore the power that was taken away from you as a victim of crime. You will also be able to understand the offender’s reasons for committing the crime.
The Restorative Justice Program is only available to youth who have taken responsibility for the crime committed. For serious and violent offences, jail time continues to be a possibility.
How are victims involved in the Restorative Justice Process?
If you choose, you can participate in a facilitated face to face meeting between yourself, the offender and the community. In this meeting everyone is given a chance to tell their story about the crime and to explain their feelings and concerns. The goal is to have everyone understand the crime and decide what needs to be done to make right the harm caused.
Together, you will come up with an agreement which explains how the offender will right his or her wrongs. This could be a payment, providing service to the victim or community or any other decided action.
What is the Victim Services Program?
In Nova Scotia, the Provincial Victim Services Program can help you. This is a free service that can support you as your case is dealt with in the criminal justice system. For example, this program can:
- Give you general information about the criminal justice system
- Give you information about the court case
- Help you talk to the police, the Crown and others in the correctional system
- Help you prepare to testify in court
- Help you prepare a victim impact statement
- Help you apply for restitution
- Help you apply for Counselling
- Give special help to child victims or witnesses
- Refer you to other agencies that can help you
To contact the Victim Services Program in your area see http://novascotia.ca/just/victim_Services/contact.asp
Victim services will help you stay informed about your case. If you have been a victim of youth crime and want to know more about the case you can call victim services.
If you want to start a civil case against the person who committed a crime against you, you should talk with a lawyer. You can contact LISNS for legal information and/or a referral to a lawyer.
Where Can I get more Information?
Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia
LISNS Legal Information Line and lawyer Referral Service
(902) 455-3135 Toll Free in NS: 1-800-665-9779
Youth Criminal Justice Explained
Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Program
(902) 424-3309 Toll Free: 1-888-470-0773
There may be community and other agencies that provide support.
Visit the 211 website for more information www.ns.211.ca