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Vagramov case: 'Alternative measures' explained

An accused who goes through an 'alternative measures' program doesn't make a legal admission of guilt but has to accept responsibility for their actions, says a criminal lawyer.
Ian Donaldson, Vagramov lawyer
Ian Donaldson, lawyer for Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov in his sexual assault case, speaks to reporters Thursday outside the Port Coquitlam courthouse.

If “alternative measures” are approved for Port Moody Mayor Robert Vagramov in his sexual assault case, he’ll have to sign a form to accept responsibility for his actions.

But it’s not an legal admission of guilt, said Bahareh Danaei, a lawyer with North Shore Law who practises criminal and family law as well as civil litigation, and is well-versed on the alternative measures program.

Thursday, special prosecutor Michael Klein and Vagramov's lawyer, Ian Donaldson, told Judge Eugene Jamieson they are in agreement in moving forward with the dispute resolution process, which takes place outside the courts.

Asked by The Tri-City News to explain such alternative measures, Danaei said after an application is made through the probation office and a candidate is referred following an interview, Crown counsel will review the file to determine the accused’s criminal history and seriousness of the offence to lay out the appropriate steps.

In the meantime, court proceedings against the offender are adjourned until the pre-agreed steps are completed.

Taking responsibility for the wrongdoing is the first on the checklist.

“It’s not admitting legal guilt but they have to accept responsibility,” Danaei told The Tri-City News, adding no plea is entered in court.

Other alternative measure steps may include: community service, counselling, attending educational seminars, writing a one-page essay to the probation officer to address the harm that’s been caused and an official apology to the victim.

The tasks are pertinent to the crime, she said; for instance, if a window is broken, the accused will be asked to pay to fix it.

Still, while the victim of a crime will be “kept in the loop” about the candidate’s progress through the alternative measures program, the victim has no say in what steps are selected for rehabilitation.

Once the program is completed to the satisfaction of the probation officer and Crown counsel — and adequate remorse is shown, acknowledging the impact suffered by the victim — the charge is withdrawn (dropped) or stayed (remains on file with no further action at this time), Danaei said.

That means the offender has no criminal record and can continue to travel freely, including across the U.S. border.

No details of the candidate’s alternative measures steps are made public as the matter is handled outside of court, Danaei said. (Gordon Comer, Crown Counsel for the BC Prosecution Service, confirmed the steps are “not disclosed publicly for confidentiality reasons.”)

Alternative measures are typically used for less serious offences involving adult offenders with no criminal history. Candidates must also demonstrate they don’t pose a risk to the public.

Vagramov’s case is due to return to Port Coquitlam provincial court on Nov. 13. He returned to his mayoral duties at city hall Monday, saying since he didn't expect his case to go to trial, he had more time to devote to his elected position.