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Restitution

An offender’s sentence may include a restitution order which requires the offender to pay an amount directly to the victim of the offence to cover the victim’s monetary losses or damage to property caused by the crime.

Restitution will not be ordered in all cases where there is monetary loss or damages. The judge must decide if a restitution order should be included in the sentence. The ability of the offender to pay a restitution order will also be a consideration. Restitution cannot be ordered for pain and suffering or other damages that can only be assessed in the civil courts.

There are two ways restitution can be ordered:

1. as part of the sentence (as a term of a probation or community service order)

2. as a separate order that can be enforced in civil court.

If restitution is ordered as part of the sentence, the offender must have the means to pay the amount during the time the order is in effect and the judge must think it is an appropriate part of the whole sentence. If the offender does not pay as required, he or she can be charged with breaching the order. A separate restitution order does not depend on a present or immediate ability to pay, but restitution amounts must be easy to calculate and not in great dispute. For example, two weeks’ lost wages due to injuries caused by an assault could be demonstrated with pay stubs and absence forms from work, and the replacement costs for goods stolen or vandalized could be demonstrated with store receipts or estimates for the replacement of the items.

Asking for Restitution

The victim or the Crown prosecutor may ask for a restitution order at the time of sentencing the offender. The sentencing judge can also consider a restitution order without any specific request.

How Restitution is Calculated and Paid

Where a restitution order is made, the offender must pay the amount ordered directly to the victim named in the order. Although the restitution order is made by a criminal court at the time of an offender’s sentence, it is similar to a civil order in other ways. If the offender does not pay the amount ordered, the victim can file the order in civil court and use civil enforcement methods to collect the money.

The most commonly used options are:

  • a payment hearing
  • garnishing wages or bank accounts
  • seizure and sale of goods by the court bailiff
  • a default hearing (if there was already a payment schedule in effect)
  • registration against land.

Important Reading

  • Getting Results, a Ministry of Attorney General booklet about how to collect the money a court order says you’re entitled to.

For More Information Try

  • The Court Registry nearest you. Ask for written information about enforcing civil judgments.

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