Rioters, victims could meet

It could take months, even years, for Stanley Cup rioters to face justice as police and special prosecutors sift through mounds of evidence and civil court cases wind their way through over-burdened courts.

But there could be a quicker and cheaper way to deal with many of these cases, and what's more, victims and rioters could face each other and hash out resolutions that are meaningful and satisfactory.

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Restorative justice is an alternative model of meting out justice and a Tri-City proponent believes it could be used to promote healing after the devastating post-game riot last week.

"This would promote accountability, it would provide a just response to crime, it would allow the victim to speak their side of the story and for the offender to realize how their actions have impacted the victim," said Gurinder Mann, executive director of Communities Embracing Restorative Action (CERA).

Mann said programs such as CERA's, which facilitate conferences between individuals causing harm (mostly youth between the ages of 12 and 18) and their victims would work well for youthful rioters who have shown remorse and who don't have any criminal record.

The process is voluntary but is usually referred by police or Crown counsel, and because it is facilitated by volunteers and takes just a month to get a resolution, can be cheaper and quicker than the court process.

"It would definitely be less expensive the court system," Mann said, adding it would work to heal the rift between rioters and the rest of the community by addressing the harm and the anger that was a swift response to the riot.

"They're angry, they're sad, they're dismayed about what's happened and they want to see the individual held accountable. They want answers, they want to know why the individual acted the way they did." he said.

Such a process could bring rioters together with community representatives or individual victims to work out a resolution that addresses the harm that was caused, Mann said.

"At a time like this, I'm sure there are many communities that want to be a part of this and want their voices heard. It could be an effective tool, it would allow the community to express their side of the story."

Resolutions could range from an apology letter to paying for damages but it would be up to both the victim and the person causing the harm to come up with the plan of action.

CERA has been operating in the Tri-Cities, Anmore and Belcarra and New Westminster for more than a decade, and has handled more than 300 cases, 96% of which have resulted in a successful resolution. Mann said the group has seen an increase in referrals from the Crown and police in recent months, and last year handled approximately 40 cases.

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