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Smithers BC Domestic Violence Court Options May 2005

Smithers BC Domestic Violence Court Options May 2005

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Smithers BC Domestic Violence Court Options May 2005

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  1. Smithers BC Domestic Violence Court OptionsMay 2005 Jane Coombe Policy and Program Analyst Public Safety and Solicitor General

  2. Special Thanks • Smither’s VAWIR Committee • Sandra Bryce DVTO Yukon • Dian Nannarone Ontario AG • Judge Eugene Hyman Santa Clara County • Judge Hugh Stanfield, Kelowna • S/Sgt Keith Hammond, Vancouver Domestic Violence Unit • Susanne Dahlin, VSCPD

  3. Purpose Of Presentation • Context of coordination and partnerships • What is effective and how we can improve • DV Courts and different models • Critical components • Key players and what is different • Yukon DVTO and how it works • Management structure, coordination • Key links to Child Welfare, First Nations, Hospitals • Case processing • Evaluations • Next steps

  4. Context. How Have We Improved Safety And Increased Accountability? • Operational Partnerships • Justice System: • policy implementation provincial and local level • Victim Service Programs • victim support, protective measures, safety planning, priority response partnerships • Community Coordination Local and provincial, CCWS to improve response, identify issues, support policy implementation. Smither’s VAWIR committee to be commended for their ongoing support for policy implementation and training.

  5. Improving Safety for Women: Operational Partnerships • Diversity Groups: input strategy, responses, resources, focus testing, pilot programs • Private Sector: • Safety and security • ADT Canada, TELUS Mobility • BC Justice Institute: • Develop and deliver specialized and interdisciplinary Training • BC Legal Services Society BCSPCA: Education and Awareness

  6. Improving Safety for Women: Operational Partnerships • Universities and BCIFV:Research to improve operational responses: empowerment research, risk assessment for victim safety, femicide, criminal harassment. • ResearchWith Programs: • safety audits, New West and Victoria • police release on a promise to appear with an undertaking • Empowerment research • Technology: Protection Order Registry 24/7 Firearms checks

  7. What Are The Key Elements Of Effective Operational Partnerships To Improve Safety? • Development and implementation of pro charge and pro prosecution policies • Interdisciplinary and sector specific training • Support and advocacy for victims • Court mandated programs for batterers • Public education that violence is not acceptable

  8. Can We Improve Our Response? • Create a common philosophical approach that centralizes victim safety • Establish consistent policies and protocols for intervening agencies • Enhance networking among service providers including all justice partners • Build monitoring and tracking systems to strengthen system accountability • Speak out for battered women within the CJS and broader community • Provide sanctions and rehabilitation opportunities for abusers • Undo the harm violence against women does to children

  9. Can we Improve Response with Domestic Violence Courts? • What is a Domestic Violence Court? • DV Courts closely resemble other criminal courts, the main difference is that all members of the CJS are specialized in handling DV cases. • Designated staff with an understanding of the dynamics of abuse. No rotation of staff. • Systems and protocols developed to support coordination within a context of specially tailored court management strategies. • Recognizes that domestic violence is a serious criminal act that requires more innovative response combining court treatment and victim support. • The DVC program does not necessarily mean a dedicated courtroom for handling domestic violence cases.

  10. What Jurisdictions have Domestic Violence Courts? • Winnipeg (1990) First specialized family court • Ontario (1997) Response to May –Iles Inquest. • 54 sites. • Early intervention and access to treatment for offenders with no prior convictions or who did not use a weapon. • Coordinated prosecution stream gathering solid evidence to support vigorous prosecution. • ADMs Committee to address intersectoral issues.

  11. Jurisdictions with DV Courts • Calgary (2000) Homefront.Edmonton 2002 • Docket court. Sits every morning. • Goal to reduce DV and link offender and victim to specialized services quickly. • Pre court conference. Risk assessments. • Specialized probation and early access to treatment. • Protocols developed with 52 agencies, hospitals aboriginal organizations and child welfare. • Engaged community as a whole. • Receive corporate funding.

  12. Jurisdictions with DV Courts • Yukon Domestic Violence Treatment Option (2000) • Encourage more disclosures • provide early intervention • hold offenders accountable • reduce high collapse rate of court cases • provide treatment option to offenders under close supervision of the court and treatment professionals • protect and support victims. • Ongoing monitoring and accountability • Judge driven, steering committee of community and justice professionals • Smithers, BC 2005?

  13. What are the Critical Components of an Effective DV Court Response? • Methods to expedite cases (BC policy requires expeditious handling) • Sensitive, appropriate service provided by trained justice professionals • Coordination of justice system response (policy and practice) • Coordination with a range of service providers • Early access to treatment by offenders (capitalize on offender motivation) • Monitoring of offender compliance with meaningful sanctions to hold offenders accountable • Access to support, information and referral by victims • Monitoring and evaluation of systems to assess effectiveness and identify areas requiring change or improvement.

  14. What Are The Key Guiding Principles? • Violence in relationships is a learned behaviour that can be changed • Offenders must take responsibility for their actions, while being supported by counselling • Early intervention by a multi disciplinary team is essential • Initial and ongoing support must be offered to victims and their families • Community based programs, counselling and supervision are more effective than incarceration in treating this behaviour.

  15. Court Is Not Just To Hold Offenders Accountable • All the partners are accountable • They in turn hold the court accountable • Thorough statistical gathering and audits • Critical self examination • One example: Referrals, did you make it? Did you receive it? Yes they did.

  16. Who Are The Key Players And How Is Their Role Different? • The Judge is the Leader, Convener ‘lynchpin’. • Ultimate dispensers of justice. • Play key role in ending domestic violence. • No rotation of judges • Intensive training to resolve DV through pro-active sentencing • Arbitrate living arrangements during pre trial phase • Still an independent arbiter, ensure fair trial and due process is followed. • Courts are more proactive and main goal is future victim safety • Adopt risk screening procedures that aid the judges decision in granting or not granting bail (BSAFER) Show cause. • Consistency. Cases are heard by only a few designated judges

  17. Key Players: Court Prosecutors • Increased emphasis on corroborating evidence • Do not solely rely on victim evidence. • Prosecution is carried out with the assumption that the victim will not testify • Assigned specifically to DV cases and receive intensive training in techniques on handling cases • Assigned early in the trial process and all efforts made to keep the same personnel on assigned cases • Prosecutor interacts more with the victim • Efforts made to keep the same counsel for the whole trial and reduce the number of court appearances • Combine charges involving the same participants

  18. Key Players: Defense Attorneys • Best treatment for clients can be achieved if defense attorney operates from a principle of victim safety and secures best treatment possible • Role is to advocate for rights of accused and represent accused at trial • During sentencing stage defense may seek a sentence that helps to diminish the chance of recidivism as opposed to seeking a lighter sentence • Reduce future violence and cases could be handled faster

  19. The Key Players: Probation Officers • Ensure offender is complying with judges sentence. Emphasis on attendance and completion of court mandated counselling • Ordering the offender charged with breach of probation if they do not attend their mandated counselling. Offenders must recognize the importance of counselling. • Scrutinize offender’s behaviour. Communicate with offender more regularly as well as checking with victim and counsellors to ensure offender is meeting terms of probation. • Protection of victim is main concern • May require addition of extra probation officers • Long term may cost less

  20. What are the Basic Components to the DV Court? • Early Intervention: If there are no serious injuries, no weapon used and accused pleads guilty- they receive immediate treatment. • Coordinated Prosecution: designed for accused with a history of violence, severe incidents and for those who do not plead guilty. Crowns specialization is of utmost importance.

  21. What are the Main Components of the Process? • Local community coordination (DVC Advisory Committee) • Specially trained Domestic Violence Crowns • Specially trained Victim/Witness staff giving support to victims • Specialized evidence collection and investigation procedures by police • Partner Assault Response (PAR) programs for offenders with an outreach component for victims

  22. Components (cont’d) • Interpreter services • Expanded training for police, Crowns, victim services, court staff, Probation and Parole staff, interpreters • Specialized case management policies and procedures for Probation and Parole staff • Specialized processing to expedite cases • A hospital based DV treatment centre to collect forensic evidence (wherever possible)

  23. Who are DVC Steering CommitteeMembers? • Court Services • Family & Children Service MCFD • Women’s Transition Home • Legal Aid • Probation Services • Counsellors of abusive men • Crown Prosecutors • Victim Assistance • Women’s Centre • RCMP • First Nations • DVTO Court Coordinator • Hospitals

  24. How Does It Work? The Yukon Model • Cases are fast tracked and RCMP attempt to assign first appearance dates in DVTO (within 2 weeks of the offence date) • Specially assigned judiciary, crown and defence lawyers will deal with cases at scheduled bi-weekly court dockets • Resource people such as Probation Officers, Counsellors from the Spousal Abuse Program and Victim Services and other agencies regularly attend Court to provide assistance • Offenders are required to make court appearances, at least monthly, where court is provided with progress summaries by the accused and counsellors

  25. Organizational Structure of DVTO

  26. How Is The Process Managed? WORKING GROUP: • “Frontline” workers in the Court • Designated crown prosecutors, defence counsel, probation officers, victim services workers, SAP counsellors, DVTO Court coordinator. • Deals with daily, weekly problems that arise in court operation and changes in court evolution • Develop court policy for approval by Steering Committee • Meet bi-monthly, or more often as required.

  27. What is the Role of the Court Coordinator? COURT COORDINATOR • Conducts general administration for the court • Chairs Steering Committee, Working Group and Pre-Court Meetings. • Facilitates and develops training and education regarding the Court for members, participants and general public. • Coordinates mediation of issues occurring in court process.

  28. What is the Role of the Child Welfare Agency FAMILY & CHILDREN SERVICES • ATTEND PRE-COURT MEETING: - Attend and be part of a coordinated response to families where domestic violence is present - Act as a referral agency for families where children are present - Work with the DVTO team to look at progress of offender, victim and children - Share information on risk of offender and family

  29. Processing Cases in the Yukon DVTO Model

  30. What is the Yukon DVTO Process? • DVTO sitting occurs one afternoon every other week • Following the laying of a charge, if the accused accepts responsibility, he or she can apply to participate in DVTO • Case is adjourned for two weeks so that Spousal assault program counsellors can complete an assessment

  31. What is the Yukon DVTO Process? • If the accused is accepted for SAP counselling and chooses to go through DVTO court, individual enters a formal guilty plea. • If the court orders the individual then enters treatment program • If ineligible, return to the formal court system • During treatment period the individual is brought to court every month for a progress report

  32. DVTO Court Process • The report includes information from the victim • After individual completes the SAP, the counsellor submits a progress report to accused, defense, Crown and Court • Sentencing judge reviews report and imposes sentence • Probation officers, SAP counsllors and victim services regularly attend DVTO court to provide assistance

  33. How Are Offenders Sentenced In DVTO Court? • Sentence not imposed until completion of S.A.P. and other programming identified or initiated (6-8 months after first appearance). • Bail conditions prior to sentencing include restrictions and treatment provisions, by consent. • Numerous reports and court appearances results in detailed information for sentencing. • Same principles of sentencing as other criminal cases. • DVTO process results in substantial reductions of risk, and increased rehabilitation and accountability. • Performance of offenders, early guilty plea and victim wishes usually justify community disposition.

  34. How is Victim Safety Central to the Process? • Victims input sought throughout the court process. They receive: • Safety planning (ASAP?) Police assess risk (BSAFER?) • Early meeting with Crown • Referrals to counselling for themselves and their children • Updates on offender’ progress • Assistance with varying release conditions • Court accompaniment and assistance in preparing victim impact statements. • Language interpreters improve access

  35. How Important are Protocols? They are Essential. • People change • Clarifies roles and responsibilities • Builds good relationships • Guidelines for the treatment • Restrictions for treatment • Relapse prevention program • Contact with abusive partner throughout process • Services for abusive women

  36. How important is an evaluation?Very important Documents goals, objectives, and activities Process Analysis Report .. how is program being implemented? Is the program being carried out as intended? Is there an information data gathering system How is recidivism tracked?

  37. Evaluations Overall of DV Courts • Better able to prosecute DV cases • Lower rates of withdrawals, dismissals • Higher rates of guilty verdicts and higher rates of victims attending court (Bala and Edwards, 200) • Early evaluations promising but more helpful in resolving start-up issues (Gill, 1999; Moyer, 2000) • Court based support services are essential in promoting victims’ safety and reducing changes in testimony (Dawson) • Increased use of corroborating evidence; more breach prosecutions (CourtWatch 2002) • Victims feel supported and are satisfied with the partner contact component of the PAR program (Herring, 2003) • Increased coordination between all players

  38. What are some of the Rewards? • Police in other jurisdictions speak highly • Increased coordination and stronger relationships between agencies • Improved communication • Identified “Needs & Gaps” • Increased energy and enthusiasm • Opportunities for education and cross training • Smithers will be a leader in BC. The first community to have a DV court

  39. What are the Next Steps? • What order works best? Short term? long term? • Invite Judge Lillies and Sandra Bryce from the Yukon • How long did it take the Yukon to move? • Begin discussions with Corrections, Crown and Courts • Send a team -- judge, corrections, court, victim services to Yukon • Develop a business plan and feasibility assessment (Smither’s BC Project Charter)

  40. What are the Next Steps? • Encourage local judges to take the National Judicial Context Training Course on DV and attend training in US (New Mexico) • Encourage Family Bar and Civil Bar to work together on safety • Review sample protocols Santa Clara, Yukon, Ontario • Create a culture of learning, be open and honest, provide support and hold each other accountable • Think incrementally • Don’t wait until everything is ready before you start.