Charlie (not his real name) knew right away he would not get away with the false and misleading statement he gave to ICBC following a car incident in Vernon last April.
Charlie was simply trying to stay out of trouble.
“I was trying to brush things under the carpet without anyone knowing,” said Charlie. “I was hoping to get by without bringing my parents into the whole ordeal and hurting their feelings.
“I didn’t think I got away with it.”
And he didn’t.
During an interview with an ICBC investigator about the car incident a couple of weeks after the fact, Charlie confessed that the entire original statement he gave was false.
Rather than have Charlie arrested and go through the court system, ICBC referred him to a local organization he’d never heard of: the Restorative Justice Society – North Okanagan (RJSNO).
The RJSNO supports and advocates on behalf of the persons affected and/or in conflict with the law.
Restorative justice is for the person harmed (victim) by crime first and foremost with a focus on the person who caused the harm (offender).
Participation is voluntary. The person who caused the harm must admit the harm and agree to the referral.
“Going through the program is a better way than putting them through the court process and getting down on life,” said Charlie, who admitted his actions had left him depressed. “They helped me lift myself back up, feel better about myself and get on with my life rather than go through the police and court ordeal.”
Charlie met with Margaret Clark, the executive director of RJSNO and some of her volunteer team. They discussed what happened to Charlie, how people were affected and what could be done to repair the harm he caused.
Charlie’s restitution included cooking a barbecue steak dinner with all the fixings for his family, and a two-and-a-half hour face-to-face conference in a circle with the persons affected by his harm to hear how his actions upset others.
“After the conference, I felt better but I still needed to go and fix things,” said Charlie. “It felt good that my parents were still there for me and willing to help me, and that Margaret was here.
“It felt good to know that people were willing to help me get through this process rather than do it all myself.”
Clark said restorative justice gives persons who cause harm a chance to deal with a public issue in a private way.
“He was willing to do this,” said Clark of Charlie’s voluntary participation in the restorative justice program.
The conference, said Charlie, wasn’t as hard as originally telling his parents the truth.
“They weren’t angry but they were pretty disappointed and pretty emotional. That hurt me,” said Charlie.
The RJSNO continues to receive referrals from throughout the North Okanagan.
“Everyone has a voice, role and say in reaching the agreement that lists activities to repair the harm,” said Clark. “We provide ongoing support for the person harmed and provide mentoring for the person who caused the harm for the duration of the agreement to encourage the fulfillment of the activities.”
Information on RJSNO can be found on their website, www.restorativejusticesociety.ca.