Community court will soon make a return to Kelowna.
The main goal of community court, sometimes called integrated court, is to reduce crime and improve public safety by integrating justice, health and social services in an effort to address the root causes of criminal behaviour.
This integration allows the court to be better informed of offenders’ individual circumstances, provide more rehabilitation-focused sentences and more closely monitor compliance with community supervision orders.
Kelowna previously had a community court, but it closed in 2012.
The re-establishment of a community court was a key recommendation of former Kelowna RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon’s 2018 crime reduction report.
“A lot has changed in Kelowna since the previous community court,” said Geoffrey Barrow, co-chair of Kelowna’s community court committee. “It’s taken time to ensure there are enough support services in place and resources to ensure success of the model.”
Barrow said a community court will address “gaps” in the traditional court approach, specifically for people whose interactions with the criminal justice system are a result of their substance use, mental health or housing challenges.
“The court seeks to do that by connecting individuals with the supports they need in the community and by monitoring their circumstances while they are subject to community supervision,” he said.
“Initiatives like community court are a key part of reducing crime, improving public safety, and providing integrated justice, health and social services to address the root causes of crime in Kelowna,” said Darren Caul, the city’s community safety director.
The local advisory committee will start work with the province and stakeholders as Kelowna community court moves from a proposal stage to an operational model — for which a date has not yet been set.
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