Federal prosecutors are being instructed to criminally prosecute only the most serious drug possession offences and to find alternatives outside the criminal justice system for the rest.
The directive is contained in a new guideline issued by the director of public prosecutions, Kathleen Roussel.
“The approach set out in this guideline directs prosecutors to focus upon the most serious cases raising public safety concerns for prosecution and to otherwise pursue suitable alternative measures and diversion from the criminal justice system for simple possession cases,” it states.
In all instances, the guideline says alternatives to prosecution should be considered if the possession offence involves a person enrolled in a drug treatment court program or an addiction treatment program supervised by a health professional.
The same applies in cases that involve a violation of bail conditions and can be addressed adequately by a judicial referral hearing, as well as cases where the offender’s conduct can be dealt with by an approved alternative measure, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous “restorative justice” responses.
The guideline says criminal prosecution for possession of a controlled substance “should generally be reserved for the most serious manifestations of the offence.” It says cases would be considered serious if a person caught in possession of an illegal drug was engaged in conduct that could endanger the health or safety of others.
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