B.C. communities now have a voice in court

Communities can now submit impact statements for the court’s consideration during the sentencing of convicted offenders.

VICTORIA – Like individual victims of crime, communities can now submit impact statements for the court’s consideration during the sentencing of convicted offenders.

In support of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, the Province has introduced a Community Impact Statement Program that will enable the courts to admit – and judges to weigh – statements about how a particular offence has impacted the community. Like the victim impact statements that have long been part of sentencing, community impact statements will describe the emotional, physical and financial impacts of an offence on a community.

Under the new program, a community representative, such as a local organization, civic government, religious organization, or First Nations community, may prepare a statement on behalf of the people who live and work in the affected community.

The statement can describe harms endured or losses suffered, which could include:

* Local or regional economic impacts

* The emotional toll on community members that resulted from hearing about and responding to the offence.

* Details of how the offence has limited or curtailed community members’ access to a particular facility or service.

Once an accused has been found guilty of an offence, the court will take the community impact statement into account during sentencing, assuming it meets the criminal code requirements for admissibility. The presiding judge will decide whether a statement meets those standards and how much weight to afford the statement.