Victim Restitution

When a victim experiences a financial loss or damage, such as property damage, as a result of a crime, they have the right to have the court consider making a stand-alone restitution order at sentencing under section 738 or 739 of the Criminal Code.

Restitution may be ordered by the criminal court judge once an offender has been found guilty. The judge can order restitution in different ways – either as a condition of an offender’s probation or conditional sentence, or as a stand-alone restitution order, enforceable by the victim in civil court if the restitution is not paid.

This page provides information on requesting and receiving restitution and also provides details on how the Restitution Program can be of assistance.   

Requesting restitution

How does a victim request restitution?  

A victim can advise the police at the time of the investigation about the financial losses or damages they have suffered. Where criminal charges are approved, a victim may request restitution by completing a Statement on Restitution form (Form 34.1):

  • In many cases Crown Counsel offices will mail the Statement on Restitution form to victims along with a Victim Impact Statement form after charges are approved
  • A Victim Impact Statement is a written description of how a crime has affected the victim and is considered by the court at sentencing if the accused is found guilty or pleads guilty, however restitution can only be requested by completing the Statement on Restitution form
  • Victim service workers can assist victims in completing both the Statement on Restitution form and the Victim Impact Statement

For the courts to consider making a restitution order, the victim’s financial losses or damages that he or she has suffered as a result of the crime must be “readily ascertainable” or easily determined:

  • Victims must be able to clearly document their losses and damages and must submit supporting documents with their Statement on Restitution
  • It is important to include with the Statement on Restitution supporting documents such as copies of any relevant bills, receipts, invoices, estimates, etc. These types of documents make it easier for the court to determine the amount of the victim’s losses and make it more likely that restitution will be ordered
  • If any of these documents have personal information that a victim does not want others to know, such as his or her address or credit card numbers, the victim should delete that information before providing the document

When does a victim request restitution?  

Restitution is considered by the judge at the time of sentencing. However, it is sometimes difficult to predict when sentencing might take place. For example, if there is an unexpected guilty plea by the offender then sentencing might occur sooner than expected. Therefore a request for restitution and supporting documents should be provided to the Crown prosecutor as soon as possible after an offender is charged.

What types of financial losses and damages may be compensated by restitution?  

There are limitations on the types of losses and damages for which a judge in a criminal case can consider making a restitution order. A judge in a criminal case may order an offender to pay the readily ascertainable financial losses or damages that a victim has experienced as a result of the crime up to the date of sentencing, but not for any future losses. A restitution order may include compensation for losses such as:

  • The amount of an insurance deductible
  • Lost income
  • Medical, counseling or treatment expenses not covered by insurance
  • Expenses for moving, such as temporary housing, food, childcare and transportation, if the victim and the accused lived in the same household and the crime caused the victim to leave that household
  • The cost of any property that was damaged, lost, or destroyed and the cost of repairs or replacement
  • The amount of money lost due to fraud or theft

Will a victim receive restitution for the financial losses and damages described in their Statement on Restitution?

Completing a Statement on Restitution may lead to an order that the accused repay a victim’s losses or damages either as a condition on a probation or conditional sentence order or in a stand-alone restitution order, but such orders are not automatic.  

Whether or not the judge orders the accused to pay restitution does not affect a victim’s right to seek compensation through a civil lawsuit or to apply to the Crime Victim Assistance Program.

  • Information about starting a civil lawsuit and about the enforcement of restitution orders can be obtained at the Court Registry. A victim may also wish to consult with a lawyer
  • If a victim is injured (physically or psychologically) as a result of certain crimes, they may be eligible for benefits under the Crime Victim Assistance Act to assist with the costs resulting from the injury. A victim service worker will be able to provide information about eligibility for the Crime Victim Assistance Program
  • Some victims find that a Restorative Justice approach is an effective way to seek restitution and have some of their unanswered questions met.

Receiving restitution

When a restitution order is made when and how will the victim receive payment?

  • If the offender is ordered to pay the victim restitution as a condition of a probation order or conditional sentence order, the restitution must be paid within a specific period of time, either by a date specified in the order or by the date the order expires
  • A stand-alone restitution order is usually payable immediately on the date it is made
  • The order may state that the victim is to be paid by the offender directly or it may state that restitution is ‘payable through the clerk of the court’
  • If the order states that restitution is ‘payable through the clerk of the court’, then the Court Registries will accept payment and forward the restitution payment to the victim
  • In any of the above circumstances, the victim may wish to contact the Restitution Program for more information or to request assistance.

What if the offender does not pay the restitution ordered?

If the restitution order is part of a conditional sentence order or probation order, and the offender does not pay the restitution, they may be charged with a breach and have to return to court.  

If it is a stand-alone restitution order, or the restitution remains unpaid following expiry of a conditional sentence order or probation order, a victim may commence a civil proceeding in small claims court to pursue collection of unpaid restitution for amounts under $25,000 (amounts over $25,000 are handled in BC Supreme Court).

A victim may choose to file a certified copy of the restitution order in civil court, without commencing civil proceedings, in order to have the amount of the order registered as an outstanding debt of the offender.

Alternatively, the victim may wish to contact the Restitution Program to inquire if the program may provide assistance.

The Restitution Program

The Restitution Program is available to provide victims and offenders with additional information and assistance regarding restitution.

The Restitution Program recognizes that even in cases where restitution has been ordered, victims may face challenges receiving payment including:

  • The offender may be reluctant or unable to pay
  • The victim may feel intimidated by the offender and reluctant to enforce the order in civil court
  • The victim may be unable to afford the cost or time to enforce the order in civil court

What does the Restitution Program do?

The Restitution Program:

  • Helps victims who have unpaid restitution orders
  • Encourages offenders to comply with restitution orders
  • Liaises with probation officers, parole officers, victim service workers and other service providers about unpaid restitution orders as needed
  • Answers inquiries about restitution orders and provides referrals to resources
  • Gives general information (not legal advice) about civil court processes

Applying to the Restitution Program for Assistance

  • Do you have an unpaid restitution order?
  • Is the restitution order part of an adult sentence?
  • Was the restitution order issued by a criminal court in B.C.?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may apply to the Restitution Program using the appropriate online form below:

If you are unsure of the answer to these questions or if you are unable to complete the online application, contact the Restitution Program using the contact information shown above.

If you owe restitution and would like to apply to the Restitution Program, please use the link below: