FRAMEWORK FOR ACTION AGAINST FAMILY VIOLENCE
(a) The Framework Requirements for Police
The Framework required that the Department of Justice Policing Services Division,
through consultation with the Nova Scotia Chiefs of Police Association, develop a Case
Management Investigation Procedural Policy supportive of the pro-arrest, pro-prosecution
The Framework directed that the Case Management Investigation Procedural Policy
must contain certain guidelines, the essence of which were:
- that spousal/partner violence calls be given a high priority by dispatchers and by police;
- that police respond to and fully investigate all family violence cases, gathering as much
evidence as possible at the scene to reduce reliance on victim testimony;
- that, where reasonable and probable grounds exist, police lay charges and arrest and
remove the alleged perpetrator from the home irrespective of the victim's wishes;
- that the safety of victims and children be a paramount concern and that police refer
victims to Victims' Services and/or local transition houses;
- that where there is a history of abuse or the victim fears for her safety, police not release
on an appearance or promise to appear;
- that police request conditions of release and bail be imposed by a Justice of the Peace or
judge of the Provincial Court; and
- that police respond promptly to reported violations of "no contact" orders, peace bonds
and civil restraining orders and that charges be laid and arrest made in all cases where
reasonable and probable grounds exist.(2)
The Framework also required the Minister of Justice to direct that RCMP sub-divisions and
municipal police forces of sixty officers or more dedicate resources to the establishment of
family crime units.(3)
No such directive was ever issued by the Minister of Justice, however, and
no family crime units were established.
(b) Summary of May - June 1997 Consultation Sessions
The majority of the respondents who participated in the May - June 1997 consultation
sessions with the Department of Justice Monitoring Committee felt that the Framework and its
related policies and protocols had had a very positive impact on the response of the justice
system to intimate partner violence and that each component of the system was more aware of
its own responsibilities and of the role and responsibilities of other components.(4)
to the role of police and their responsibilities, police representatives, participants from other
sectors of the justice system, and Victims' Services representatives all agreed that intimate
partner violence calls were being given a high priority by police and that the police response
had improved significantly after the initial training of all justice workers which followed the
adoption of the Framework.(5)
Police indicated that they were receiving adequate information
from dispatch concerning the presence of firearms, premise history, and urgency of the call.(6)
The RCMP noted some problems with the handling of 911 calls through central dispatch and
police participants recommended that peace bond information be added to CPIC (the Canadian
Police Information Centre operated by the National Police Service) to enable them to respond
appropriately to peace bond violations.
Police indicated that they were gathering photographs and video statements in the most
serious cases, but not in lower-end offences, while Crown prosecutors expressed concern that
photographs were not taken consistently, were frequently of insufficient quality, or not ready
when needed by the Crown for bail hearings.(7)
Crown prosecutors also indicated that video
statements at the scene would improve evidence for the Court, but not all police had received
training in videotaping statements or were comfortable with the technology. As well, the
availability of the necessary equipment varied widely across the province.(8)
Some police interpreted the Framework as limiting police discretion. Concerns were
raised by some police and some Crown prosecutors that this was resulting in some charges being
laid in the absence of reasonable and probable grounds. In relation to the charging practices of
police, Victims' Services staff voiced a concern about an apparent increase in cross-charging.(9)
Some participants felt that police were sometimes encouraging women to apply for peace bonds
in circumstances where charges were appropriate.(10)
Concern was also expressed about the
reluctance of police to lay charges under the criminal harassment (stalking) provisions of the
The Framework policy requires police to include a "no contact" provision in the
undertaking when releasing a intimate partner violence suspect. The 1997 consultation sessions
revealed that compliance with this policy varied across the province. Crown prosecutors
indicated that they did not always have the information on undertakings issued on the weekend
when they had to deal with applications to vary on Monday morning.(12)
expressed frustration at the frequency with which "no contact" provisions were dropped during
subsequent court appearances.(13)
The 1997 consultations confirmed that police routinely informed the accused and the
complainant that police must lay charges where the evidence supports it and that the charges can
only be withdrawn by the Crown. While both the Crown and Victims' Services reported being
frequently contacted by victims who wanted the charges dropped, other victims were relieved
that laying charges was not their responsibility.(14)
The 1997 consultations indicated that police were aware of the requirement to refer the
victim to a victims' support service, though the practice varied significantly across the
Police in most areas indicated that they did inform the victim about interim release
of an accused and about the conditions of release. However, Victims' Services representatives
expressed concern that they were not always informed about the interim release of the alleged
(c) Highlights of 1996 - 1998 Data Collection Process
The 1999 Department of Justice Monitoring Committee also had the results of a data
collection process that began in April 1996. It contained information on the processing of 6,964
incidents that were reported to police during the period of April 1996 to August 1998.(17)
of 17 municipal police forces and 43 RCMP detachments had contributed data to this project.(18)
Data relating to the processing of these 6,964 cases by the criminal justice system was compared
to the results reported in the 1995 Nova Scotia Family Violence Tracking Project to measure the
impact of the Framework policies. The statistics gathered between 1996 and 1998 provided
support for the view of the majority of participants in the 1997 consultation, that the pro-arrest,
pro-charge, pro-prosecution policy had resulted in an improved response by police to domestic
violence calls. The data collected revealed:
a significant decline in median police response time
to incidents (from 9 minutes in 1996 to 7 minutes by 1997);(19)
The increase in charge rates in Nova Scotia following
the implementation of the Framework is consistent with the findings of a 1998 report on Canada-wide impacts of mandatory policy directives, which reported that these directives had resulted in
an increased number of charges being laid.(23)
a significant increase in arrest and
charge rates by police from 34% of suspects arrested in 1995 to 47% arrested by 1997,(20)
from 44% of suspects being charged in 1995 to 72% in 1997;(21)
and a greatly increased rate of
referral by police of the victim to victims' support services, from a 9% referral rate in April 1996
to a 78% referral rate in March 1997.(22)
(d) Conclusions and Recommendations of 1999 Monitoring Committee
The 1999 Evaluation Report concluded that the ambitious training program for police
and other justice workers that had been implemented following the adoption of the Framework
had been the most critical success factor(24)
in the implementation of the Framework.
The Committee made a number of recommendations to bring about the improvements
required to ensure that police and other justice workers were able to respond effectively to
intimate partner violence. The following recommendations of the Committee relate particularly
to the work of the police:(25)
- improve access to interpreters to facilitate communication between police and citizens
who do not speak English;
- ensure the effectiveness of the 911 system in facilitating police dispatch for calls
reporting spousal/partner violence;
- enter peace bond information on the CPIC system to ensure that police are aware of these
orders when they respond to spousal/partner violence calls;
- review the practice of taking photographs and videotaped statements to promote
consistency across the Province;
- develop a practical and effective process for facilitating police access to information
regarding orders of the Family Court or Supreme Court (regarding family matters);
- review the Emergency 911 Act to determine if it should be amended to permit 911
recordings to be released for purposes of criminal prosecution;
- ensure that procedures are in place in all areas to ensure that victims are informed
regarding interim release and sentencing outcomes; and
- ensure that spousal/partner violence cases are flagged and that relevant information is
shared to trigger the application of the Framework for Action procedures at all stages of
the justice system from arrest through court disposition.
(e) 2001 Review
(i) Police Support for the Policy
Many of the themes reflected in the consultation sessions in 1997 were repeated in the
comments of participants in the focus groups held between February and April 2001. Among the
participants in those focus groups, there was virtually universal acceptance of the pro-charge,
pro-arrest, pro-prosecution policy. With few exceptions, police were supportive of the
Framework and the mandatory charging policy. They noted that it is better to err on the side of
caution to protect the victim than to allow a perpetrator to escape accountability. This is a
notable shift in philosophy and attitude from 1995 when charging behaviour was identical to the
victim's wishes and police felt victims' wishes should determine whether or not a charge was
laid. One of the benefits of the Framework cited by many focus group participants, including
both police and victims, was the removal from the victim of the burden of choice as to charge or
not. It was felt that this helped to protect the victim from undue pressure from the perpetrator.
Most police also indicated that they prefer the clear direction that the pro-charge, pro-arrest
policy gives them.
Some police qualified their support for the policy by identifying that, while it worked in
the majority of cases, it was difficult to apply in some situations, particularly those involving
minor offences, insufficient evidence and conflicting stories, or an uncooperative victim. Many
police felt that some alternative to prosecution was needed in exceptional cases where the
violence did not result in serious injury and did not have a long history, and where the parties
clearly wanted to reconcile. However, police and other participants agreed that any alternative
to prosecution should be available only subsequent to a charge being laid.(26)
In some areas municipal police (sometimes with the agreement of the Crown) have
interpreted the policy to mean that they have no discretion in determining whether reasonable
and probable grounds exist to support a charge. Police who interpret the policy in this way
maintain that they must charge on the grounds of the policy alone, even in the absence of
reasonable and probable grounds and even where they suspect that justice is not being served.
Police who interpret the policy in this way said "we want our discretion back," noting that any
discretion they have under the Framework Policy is more theoretical than real, given the
direction of the Attorney General to police and the accountability of front line police to superior
Police in other areas strongly disagreed with this approach, maintaining that they do have
an obligation under the Framework to assess reasonable and probable grounds and that they can
only lay a charge where there is evidence to support it. These police representatives did not
want to see a return to broader police discretion. They felt domestic violence had not been taken
seriously enough when police had more discretion. Hence, there are significant inconsistencies
in the interpretation and application of the Framework by police throughout the province. These
were noted both by police and by participants from other sectors of the justice system.
(ii) Initial Police Response to Calls
As in 1997, police, victims, victims' service agencies, and transition house staff indicated
that the police response to intimate partner violence calls has improved since the adoption of the
Framework. However, victims noted that the quality of their interaction with police depended
entirely on the individual officer they dealt with and that the mandatory charging policy is not
being applied consistently. Victims suggested that police need sensitivity and domestic violence
training in order to understand that victims expect to be taken seriously, not to be judged or
blamed, and that police must appreciate that it is not always safe for the victim to talk.
Police reported receiving appropriate information from dispatch. The problems
identified by RCMP in the 1997 consultations concerning the handling of 911 calls through
central dispatch were not mentioned in the recent focus group discussions. As well, police are
now able to get access to peace bond information through CPIC.
Police indicated that photographs and videotaped KGB statements are taken in serious
cases, but police noted that KGB statements require a lot of resources that are not available in all
areas. As well, the taking of KGB statements requires that officers have some training that many
officers have not received. While there was general support expressed by Crown representatives
for the investigative work of police, some Crown representatives felt police could be doing a
better job of securing videotaped statements, photographs, and other evidence to reduce reliance
on victim testimony. Victims also raised this concern. One victim noted, for instance, that
"police did not even take photos of blood on the walls and did not take statements from other
witnesses, including neighbors, but relied solely on my statement." Victims believe that
gathering additional evidence would help to support their version of events and take some
pressure off them, particularly when they are being characterized by the defense counsel as
"crazy or vindictive."
Concentration on improved evidence-gathering was seen as a training issue. Police
representatives who had benefitted from the initial training program following the adoption of
the Framework found it extremely valuable and noted that it had improved their understanding
of the dynamics of violence and their appreciation of their role in combatting it. They indicated,
however, that there had not been ongoing training and that there was a clear need for training to
catch new recruits and to provide a refresher and updates to those who received the initial
Some police felt that, in light of the lack of training resources and the need for
specialized training in order to respond adequately and investigate fully, it would be preferable,
and perhaps feasible in metropolitan areas, to have all members do initial response to domestic
violence calls, but to have a domestic violence unit or specialized team do follow-up
(iv) Specialized Investigative Units in Other Jurisdictions
Some Canadian jurisdictions do have designated domestic violence units within police
agencies to do the thorough investigation and follow-up required to solidify a case. These units
are more typically associated with the specialized courts discussed later in the report,(27)
the Ontario specialized courts which are about to be expanded across the province. The
specialized courts in Ontario will include specialized police services to develop and maintain
procedures for undertaking and managing investigations into domestic violence, with a view to
enhancing investigative procedures. Some jurisdictions without specialized courts have tried
specialized police investigative units or crisis response teams. For example, in Alberta, four
cities/towns have spousal abuse police/social worker teams: Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge,
and Killam RCMP. As well, Restigouche, New Brunswick uses a team approach to respond
immediately to a crisis call to police. Crisis response teams focus primarily on victim support
whereas the specialized teams associated with specialized courts emphasize good evidence-gathering practices.
The San Diego Police Department has one of the largest specialized Domestic Violence
Investigative Units in the United States. Since its formation in 1992, domestic homicides in the
city have dropped more than 50% from an average of 20 per year to less than ten.(28)
The unit was
a product of the San Diego Domestic Violence Task Force formed in 1989-now the Domestic
Violence Council, a body comprised of about 40 agencies. Internal research showed that while
the police department had a strong written policy, it was generally not followed in practice due
to lack of training. With the introduction of training, the number of reported incidents rose
almost 60% the next year. Further, in order to strengthen investigations and improve the
handling of cases, as field operations were conducted out of eight regional divisions, a
centralized unit was formed.
Whether or not special investigative units are established, good evidence gathering is
recognized by all jurisdictions as critical, and there is reason to believe that a strategy of relying
on evidence other than victim testimony can be successful. Such evidence may include recorded
911 calls, photographs and hospital records that document injuries, and testimony from police
officers who responded to the crime scene. In Washington, D.C., the U.S. Attorney's office
"introduces such evidence in every domestic violence case in which it is available, and relies on
it exclusively half of the time, in those cases where the victim declines to testify for the state.
The conviction rate in both types of cases is identical."(29)
This may seem surprising. One might expect that a victim's testimony would make a
tremendous impact on a judge. However, during the current review, victims themselves noted
that the long-term effects of trauma and stress arising from abuse, combined with the pressure of
being challenged in court in the presence of the abuser, and in some cases, by him, makes them
appear unstable and less believable than the accused, whose habitual approach of power and
control allows him to present himself as balanced and believable. The accuracy of this
perception is borne out by the writings of a number of scholars who have documented a
pervasive societal view that women's stories lack credibility.(30) This societal view, combined
with or bolstered by the effects of abuse on victims, undermines the persuasive impact of a
victim's testimony. American scholar Epstein describes the dynamic as follows:
Disassociation may cause many survivors to testify about emotionally charged
incidents with an entirely flat affect, or to be unable to remember dates or details
of violent incidents. Hyper arousal can cause a victim to seem highly paranoid or
subject to unexpected outbursts of rage in response to relatively minor incidents.
The psychological phenomenon of intrusion may cause a witness to have vivid
flashbacks on the witness stand that interfere with her ability to testify. Both
these explanations of battered women's behaviour are not intuitively obvious, and
because they differ greatly from the behaviour and demeanor that a judge
encounters in his normal experience, they often are incorrectly interpreted as
indications of her lack of credibility. As former prosecutor Cheryl Hanna puts it,
in court "batterers can appear charming, respectful, and persuasive; by contrast,
abused women can appear hysterical, vindictive, or prone to exaggeration."(31)
While the above-noted phenomena underline the importance of the judiciary receiving some
education concerning the dynamics and effects of domestic violence, they also explain the
importance of police gathering other evidence to reduce reliance on victim testimony and to
supplement and support it.
The Framework policy requires that police, when releasing an intimate partner violence
suspect on an undertaking, must include a "no-contact" condition in the undertaking. Police and
victims both expressed frustration about the problem of conflicting court orders. In some cases
there is a Family Court order allowing access to children and a peace bond or order for interim
release containing a no-contact provision. Such conflicting orders pose a problem for police in
determining the appropriate response to a call about breach of a peace bond or a no-contact
order. Police and victims alike believe that the criminal justice order containing the no-contact
provision should take precedence over the Family Court access order, particularly where the no-contact order is dated subsequent to the Family Court order. Asked about conflicts between
Provincial Court and Family Court orders, one Provincial Court judge stated that he will look at
the dates of the two orders and vary the no-contact order to say "no contact except with another
person present for the purpose of arranging access to children."
With respect to the requirement that an interim release of a suspect on an undertaking
contain a "no-contact" provision, most police did view it as mandatory. However, a few noted
that the experience they had of victims subsequently contacting the accused (leading to further
calls to police) caused some police to adopt a variation of the no-contact provision, saying "no
contact unless initiated by the victim." Police chiefs, many police representatives, and members
of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women indicated concern about this variation of the
"no-contact" order. They strongly believe there is a need for a cooling off period following a
violent incident and noted that the variation of the order does not eliminate the need for police to
respond to a further incident anyway. As well, it was noted that the victim is often confused and
upset following an incident and that the accused may exercise tremendous power for
reconciliation through maintenance, custody, access and divorce proceedings. Delays in Family
Court processes create further stress. "No-contact" orders and victims' support services may
assist the victim in resisting pressure from the accused.
On the other hand, a member of the criminal defence Bar met with us primarily to
indicate that he believes that police officers should have discretion as to whether or not to
include a "no-contact" provision in an undertaking for interim release. He indicated that where
the woman does have some semblance of control over her life and over her living arrangements
and it is not a serious case of ongoing abuse, there may not be a need for a "no-contact"
provision or perhaps the "no-contact" provision could be time limited.
Police, Crown Prosecutors, Victims' Services staff, and other participants expressed
tremendous frustration at the frequent variation or dropping of no-contact conditions by judges.
There is a deep and widespread concern that judges need training to enhance their understanding
of the complex dynamics of intimate partner violence, of the many pressures which can be
brought to bear on the victim by the alleged perpetrator, and of the post-traumatic stress disorder
that long term abuse often causes in women.
(vi) Laying of Charges
A number of police officers expressed uncertainty as to whether they should charge both
parties where the woman has called the police, but both parties appear to have been involved in
the assault. This type of situation often gives rise to a practice of cross-charging, a practice about
which victims, Victims' Services staff, and members of the Advisory Council on the Status of
Women expressed grave concern. The perception of many participants is that the practice of
cross-charging is on the rise. This perception is supported by the statistics gathered by the
Victim Service Unit of the Halifax Regional Police Service for the year 2000, which show that
the "victim" and the "accused" were co-charged in 31 files in 1998, 27 in 1999, and 80 files in
Some police indicated that further investigation often reveals that a case, which at first
appeared to involve assaults by both parties, is really a case of self-defence on the part of a
victim who has suffered long-term violence. They indicated that cross-charging sometimes
results from a failure to do a thorough investigation. However, both the Public Prosecution
Service and many police acknowledged that cross-charges often result from a "he said, she said"
situation with little additional evidence available. The Public Prosecution Service stressed that
these situations pose unique procedural and evidentiary concerns and require a thorough
investigation and a careful determination by an officer of whether or not there are sufficient
grounds to support the laying of a charge.(33)
The Public Prosecution Service recognizes that
"[t]he police in some instances seem to be between a rock and a hard place" because if they do
not intervene to remove a party and that party subsequently injures or kills his or her intimate
partner, then "the police could well be perceived as having been derelict in their duty."(34)
Nevertheless, the Public Prosecution Service points out that the laying of charges in the absence
of reasonable grounds can give rise to claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution and that it
may, therefore, "be helpful in difficult cases for police to seek legal advice from Crown
In Prince Edward Island, the domestic violence policy specifically mentions dual
charging. In cases where both parties claim to have been assaulted, officers are directed to
consider a number of factors such as the parties' relative size, strength, demeanor, and gender;
statements of witnesses (including children); reasonableness and timing of the counter-accusation; and visible marks, in determining whether to lay dual charges. Police are also
directed to consult with the Crown prior to doing so.
It is worthy of note that some jurisdictions in the United States have implemented a
primary aggressor policy which instructs officers to arrest the primary aggressor in the incident,
thus reducing the likelihood of dual arrests. In jurisdictions such as Chesterfield County,
Virginia where such a policy exists, the incidence of dual charging decreased after the
implementation of the primary aggressor policy.(36)
Victims, victims' service agencies, and the Advisory Council on the Status of Women
again expressed concern about the reluctance of police to lay charges under the criminal
harassment provisions of the Criminal Code. These participants believed that the reluctance of
police to use these provisions of the Code may result from a lack of understanding on the part of
the police of the dynamics of intimate partner violence and from a failure to investigate
adequately the history of violence and stalking behaviour between the victim and the alleged
perpetrator. It was suggested that further training of police might assist them in laying criminal
Once again participants expressed concern that some police are instructing victims to
apply for peace bonds when charges would be appropriate. However, many police indicated that
they do not recommend peace bonds because peace bonds do not provide immediate or adequate
protection in the way that "no-contact" orders do. Participants indicated that in some instances
it is not the police but rather the Crown, transition house staff, or Victims' Services staff who
advise women to apply for peace bonds. The majority of participants agreed that peace bonds
should be used only when the evidence is inadequate to support a charge. The victims who
participated believed peace bonds to be "useless pieces of paper which provide little protection
because police rarely enforce them and because men determined to hurt their partners are not
deterred by peace bonds."
The majority of participants acknowledged that police routinely inform the accused and
the complainant that they are required to lay charges where reasonable and probable grounds
exist and that the charge can only be withdrawn by the Crown. Some victims are not happy
about this, but most expressed relief at not having to bear the responsibility for laying charges.
Recantation by victims is still very common.
(vii) Victim Referral and Safety
Police participants were well aware of the requirement to refer the victim to support
services and, despite some variation in practices across the province, police, victims, victims'
service agencies, and transition house staff all confirmed that the rate of referral of victims by
police to victims' support services is very high.
(viii) Interim Release
All of the participants agreed on the importance of complying with the Framework policy
requirement of informing victims about the release of the alleged perpetrator and about the
release conditions. However, it is clear that this is not always done. Police in most areas
indicated that they inform the victim, although sometimes it is done by Victims' Services where
a referral has been made. Victims' Services expressed concern, however, that they are not
always informed about an accused's interim release. In some cases it is left to the Crown to
inform the victim of the interim release or to the Court to mail a copy of the order to the victim.
This may be problematic, given frequent changes in the addresses of victims concerned for their
own safety. Victims and transition house staff expressed frustration that few alleged
perpetrators are held in custody.
(ix) Monitoring and Accountability
The Framework required that each component of the justice system establish an audit
mechanism to review cases of intimate partner abuse to ensure that the policies and procedures
were being followed. Municipal police reported that internal audits of files are done routinely in
police departments. The audit mechanisms vary somewhat from one department to the next, but
in most cases domestic violence files are flagged and reviewed by a case management officer or
supervisor to ensure that the Framework policies and procedures are complied with. In a few
instances, intimate partner violence files are not flagged, but are reviewed as part of a more
general file audit system. RCMP representatives indicated that intimate partner violence files in
RCMP detachments are flagged and audited both by the head office in Halifax and internally at
the detachment level. Although some municipal police representatives indicated that there is no
formalized, ongoing external audit system, the representatives of the Police and Public Safety
Services Division of the Department of Justice indicated that it does audits of municipal police
agencies and reports to the Chief in cases where the policy has not been followed.
Representatives from the Police and Public Safety Services Division of the Department
of Justice noted that internal record keeping involves three processes: (1) reports on
investigations of individual incidents; (2) file/case management; and (3) record management.
They indicated that one of the problems they sometimes see in their audit is in carrying through
from the individual incident to the larger case file. They stressed the importance of an officer
responding to a call knowing whether there has been an earlier incident. As well, they indicated
that there must be a supervisor overseeing all cases, noting discrepancies in record keeping and
in compliance with the Framework, but also identifying cases which are ongoing problems in the
community that require a co-ordinated agency approach involving contacts with other
departments or services, such as Community Services.
Policing Services representatives also pointed out that spousal/partner violence and
domestic disputes both fall under the Framework, but that in police practice they are dealt with
separately, with the result that family incidents involving violence are often well documented,
but domestic disputes without violence are not. Yet both are a critical part of the history of
family violence in a particular case.
(f) Conclusions and Recommendations Regarding Police
While there is widespread support among police for the pro-charge, pro-arrest, pro-prosecution policy embodied in the Framework, there are significant inconsistencies and some
difficulties with the interpretation and application of Framework policies and procedures by the
police. The inconsistencies include: the failure of some police to appreciate or to accept the
obligation to assess reasonable and probable grounds; wide differences in attitude and approach
to victims; variations in the quality of investigations conducted (especially in the taking of
photographs and of videotaped statements); a notable increase in cross-charging; and variations
in the wording of no-contact provisions, in the circumstances in which peace bonds are
recommended, and in the practice of informing the victim about the interim release of the
accused. As well, there appears to be uncertainty as to how to deal with difficult cases and
reluctance to use the criminal harassment provisions of the Criminal Code. Police themselves
are aware of many of these inconsistencies and difficulties. Police, and focus group participants
from other justice sectors and from community organizations, suggested that training would help
to eliminate many of these problems. It is therefore recommended that Nova Scotia develop a
strategy for delivering an ongoing training program for police and other justice workers,
using and building on the successful training done immediately following the
implementation of the Framework. The training should address all of the issues dealt with
in the original training program and the inconsistencies and difficulties identified above.
Participants from all justice sectors and from community organizations should be involved
in its development and delivery.
Given the importance of good evidence-gathering practices to the successful
prosecution of domestic violence cases and the benefits achieved in some jurisdictions
through the use of specialized investigative units, it is recommended that in metropolitan
areas where the number of domestic violence incidents reported annually justifies it and the
size of the police force permits it, RCMP sub-divisions and municipal police forces dedicate
resources to the establishment of a specialized domestic violence investigative unit. It is
also recommended that a process or mechanism be established for each municipality in the
Province to do the thorough investigation and follow-up required in difficult cases. This
mechanism might include a single specialized domestic violence police investigator within
each municipality or, in the case of smaller municipalities, a special domestic violence
investigator shared between adjoining municipalities. Each municipality should also have
within its police force a crime prevention victims' services coordinator.
As noted previously, frustration was expressed by both victims and police in cases where
there are multiple, conflicting orders governing the existence of a family. Such orders often
include a Family Court order allowing an accused access to children and a conflicting peace
bond or order for interim release containing a no-contact provision. Conflicting orders of this
kind pose a problem for police in determining how to respond to a breach of the peace bond or
no contact provision. It is recommended that this issue of conflicting orders be referred by
the Minister of Justice to the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court, to the Chief Justice of
the Supreme Court, and to the Chief Judge of the Family Court for consideration. It may be
that the solution is to ensure that Justices of the Peace and Provincial Court Judges make it a
routine practice to inquire as to the existence of a Family Court order allowing the accused
access to the children, and for Family Court judges to routinely inquire as to the existence of a
peace bond or no-contact provision, and for judges of each court to tailor their own orders
accordingly. In cases where there is a pre-existing Family Court order for access, for example,
the no-contact provision could perhaps provide "no-contact except with another person present
for the purpose of arranging access to children."
In light of the uncertainty expressed by police officers as to how to deal with "he
said, she said" situations, the concern expressed by victims and community organizations
about the increase in cross-charging, and the unique procedural and evidentiary concerns
posed by such cases, it is recommended that police seek legal advice from Crown
prosecutors in difficult cases. It is also recommended that consideration be given to the
adoption of a primary aggressor policy requiring officers to determine and arrest the
primary aggressor in the incident, thus reducing the likelihood of cross-charges.
Victims are not always being informed about the release of the alleged perpetrator and
about the release conditions. It is therefore recommended that police procedures within each
department or detachment be reviewed to ensure that both victims and Victims' Services
are informed regarding interim release.
Both municipal police and RCMP take their monitoring and audit responsibilities
seriously. However, a couple of areas were identified for improvement. One of the problems
identified by the Police and Public Safety Services Division of the Department of Justice in its
audits is in carry through from the individual domestic violence incident to the larger case file.
It is important that this carry through process be overseen by the case supervisor responsible for
noting discrepancies in record keeping and in compliance with the Framework. As well,
victims, Victims' Service representatives, members of the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the
Status of Women, and representatives from the Police and Public Safety Services Division all
noted that in police practice, domestic disputes are treated quite separately from domestic
violence calls. It is recommended that police document domestic dispute calls as carefully
as they document intimate partner violence incidents, since both are a critical part of the
history of family violence in a particular case.
1. 1Supra note 10 at 2.
2. 2Supra note 14 at 3.
3. 3Supra note 14 at 3.
4. 4Supra note 14 at iv.
5. 5Supra note 14 at 24.
6. 6Supra note 14 at 24.
7. 7Supra note 14 at 24.
8. 8Supra note 14 at 25.
9. 9Supra note 14 at 26.
10. 10Supra note 14 at 27.
11. 11Supra note 14 at 27.
12. 12Supra note 14 at 28.
13. 13Supra note 14 at 28.
14. 14Supra note 14 at 27.
15. 15Supra note 14 at 28.
16. 16Supra note 14 at 28.
17. 17Supra note 14 at iii.
18. 18Supra note 14 at Appendix D, 1.
19. 19Supra note 14 at Appendix D, 35.
20. 20Supra note 14 at Appendix D, 35.
21. 21Supra note 14 at Appendix D, 35.
22. 22Supra note 14 at 17.
23. 23Landau, supra note 19.
24. 24Supra note 14 at vi.
25. 25Supra note 14 at vii-viii.
26. See on diversion, infra at 56.
27. Infra at 68.
28. 28As reported in the San Diego Domestic Violence Protocol web site, online.
29. 29 Interview with Robert Spagnoletti, Chief, U.S. Attorney's Office Domestic Violence Unit, in
Washington, D.C. (3 September 1997), cited in Epstein, supra note 24 at 18.
30See C. Gilligan, "Getting Civilized" (1994) 63 Fordham L. Rev. 17; K. L. Scheppele, "Just the
Facts, Ma'am: Secularized Violence, Evidentiary Habits, and the Revision of Truth" (1992) 37
N.Y.L. Sch. L. Rev. 123, 126-27.
31Supra note 24 at 41.
32. 322000 Statistics for Victim Services Unit, Halifax Regional Police, prepared by Verona Singer,
Coordinator, February 14, 2001.
33. 33Public Prosecution Service, Review of the Framework for Action Against Family Violence.
Submission to the 2001 Review, March 2001 at 8 (hereinafter referred to as the Public
Prosecution Service submission). The Appendix to this document includes the 1996 Directive of
the Minister of Justice and the Public Prosecution Service Spousal/Partner Violence Policy
34. 34Ibid. at 9.
35. 35Ibid. at 9.
36. 36E. Cramer, "Variables That Predict Verdicts In Domestic Violence Cases" (1999) 14:11
Journal of Interpersonal Violence 1137 at 1, online: Proquest <http://proquest.umi.com> (date
accessed 14 February 2001).
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