Volunteers needed to help victims through 'intimidating' court process
Justice department to launch pilot project this summer in Fredericton, Oromocto and Woodstock
The Department of Justice and Public Safety is seeking volunteers for a pilot program designed to help vulnerable victims as they navigate the court system.
The program — which will launch this summer in Fredericton, Oromocto and Woodstock — will assist children, as well as people with mental, intellectual or physical disabilities.
It will also help victims based on the nature of the crime, for instance, people affected by domestic violence.
We really think people of various backgrounds, education and experiences can make a positive difference to victims' court experiences.– Meranda McLaughlin
"It can be so intimidating to go to court and there are more and more individuals who are looking for additional support to help them through the process," said Meranda McLaughlin, the department's provincial volunteer program adviser.
The model has been used in other jurisdictions across the country. It is meant to complement other roles in the court system, McLaughlin said.
For example, a volunteer may help in explaining the court process, answering questions, accompanying victims to court, and standing or sitting with the victim during testimony, she said.
Volunteers must be at least 19 years old, have at least a high school diploma and must undergo a background check.
McLaughlin said the volunteers will be offered training, but the department is looking for people with diverse backgrounds — from retired social workers or teachers to students looking for hands-on experience to complement their education.
"Even outside of the post-secondary realm, there can be individuals who have extremely valuable life experience, and maybe they have key attributes like approachability, integrity and they're really caring and reliable," she said.
"We really think people of various backgrounds, education and experiences can make a positive difference to victims' court experiences."
The Court Support Volunteer Pilot Program is expected to run for about one year before expanding to other regions.
Volunteers can apply online or by calling 1-844-242-7577.
With files from CBC's Information Morning Fredericton