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Excerpt from Jury's Verdict and Recommendations

IN THE MATTER OF: An Inquest into the death of Arlene May

February 16 - July 2, 1998
Coroners Courts, Toronto, Ontario

Recommendations to:


Risk Assessment and Safety Issues I Investigation Procedures I Bail Briefs I Systems (CPIC etc) I Training/Education

1. All police officers should be directed to provide safety planning to woman victims of domestic violence, or to call a Victim Services to provide immediate safety planning or accompany the woman to a women's shelter where safety planning can occur as a routine procedure in all cases.

2. Police should be directed through a written 'Duty to Warn' policy of the responsibility to warn all victims of domestic violence about the risks of their situation.

3. If police officers have concerns for the victim's safety they must include that opinion and the reasons in the crown brief in conjunction with the safety checklist.

4. All police officers should be directed by written policy to conduct a risk assessment in consultation with the victim and Victims Services during routine domestic violence case investigations. Police must be directed to inform the woman that she may revise the information on the assessment at any time.

5. Risk assessment codes should be placed on OMPPAC showing that the assessment was done on the accused.

6. Police officers involved in the investigation of domestic violence should be directed to consider the use of the Behavioural Science Unit, Ontario Provincial Police to conduct a complete risk assessment analysis for repeat offenders or offenders of concern.

7. The risk assessment and lethality checklists should be included in the field guides of police officers for ready reference during the conduct of investigations and the preparation of documentation for Court use. Police officers must be trained in the use of checklists.

8. Police should be directed to carry pamphlets for immediate distribution to victims of domestic violence which contain the following information:

    a) All services available to the victim and her children in the local community; and

    b) An explanation of the cycle of violence and advice on safety planning ideas and techniques.

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Investigation Procedures

1. Dedicated police teams should be set up for domestic violence cases and each case should have a dedicated officer (with training in domestic violence) assigned to follow the case through from beginning to end and to act as victim's contact. (To avoid having the victim repeat her entire history over and over).

2. Police should use the domestic violence checklist developed under the direction of the Implementation Committee to ensure a thorough investigation.

3. Investigating police officers should be directed by written policy to contact 'Victim Services' after first contact with woman victims of domestic violence in order to ensure support from the earliest possible involvement with the criminal justice system.

4. The investigating officer is to make such inquiries of the accused's family members, or other associates as may reasonably be practicable to ascertain whether weapons/PAC's are available to the accused.

5. Where police become aware of current intimate partners other than the victim in a particular incident, they should make an effort to contact the woman and inform/warn her of potential risk to her and her children.

6. In cases where there is more than one victim, the secondary and other victims should get the same consideration and help as the primary victim.

7. Every police officer who is involved in the investigation of domestic violence cases should be instructed to examine each case for evidence of stalking behaviour (criminal harassment).

8. Police Officers should be encouraged to:

    a) Make use of electronic recording of evidence in domestic violence cases such as audio and videotape;

    b) Prepare summaries of the important evidence on such tapes and "flag"' such summaries and their importance for the benefit of the crown attorney who will deal with the matter in bail court; and

    c) Provide a copy of any typed transcript and/or synopsis to the victim as soon as they are available.

9. That before sworn videotaped statements are taken, police must be directed by written policy to inform women that such statements may be used without their consent and may be disclosed through the Defence to the accused.

10. Police must collect all evidence available in every domestic violence case, including photographs/videotape of the crime scene, 911 tapes, answering machine tapes, statements of the accused and the victim, statements of any witnesses, hospital records, utterances to police not captured in accused statements, etc. in order to minimize the onus placed on victims to provide testimony.

11. All statements obtained by the police from victims, witnesses and accused must be dated when taken.

12. Police should be directed to follow current Police policy that photographs of injuries to female victims, which are covered by clothing should be taken by female police staff. And further, that photographs be taken immediately after the assault and again 24 to 48 hours later when soft tissue contusions become more visible.

13. The Police policy should instruct Police officers to consider charging an offender with obstruction of justice where there are reasonable grounds to believe that a breach of a restraining order has occurred while charges are still pending against the offender. The reporting officer should review the circumstances of the breach with the Crown Attorney so that the possibility of seeking bail variation or revocation can be considered.

14. In keeping with the existing policy of mandatory charging in the instance of domestic assault, when a Police officer investigates a case of domestic violence wherever there is evidence of stalking there should be a corresponding mandatory charging policy requiring that the accused be charged with criminal harassment pursuant to section 264 of the Criminal Code of Canada

15. Police must complete their notes prior to going off-duty. Protocols should be developed regarding the standards for such notes. Important information must be summarized and separately highlighted. Investigating officers must ensure that the officer who will attend in court is fully cognizant of all issues and concerns and that these will be conveyed in a meaningful way to the Crown Attorney and to the Court.

16. Where there are allegations of counter assault, Police must investigate fully to determine the primary offender in order to distinguish assault from defensive self-protection;

Further, that Police be directed by written policy not to lay charges in cases where victims have taken self-defensive action.

17. All materials in the Crown Brief must be marked with the date and time entered and the signature of the police officer or Crown Attomey/Assistant Crown Attorney responsible for the entry.

18. a) All domestic violence case briefs must be "red flagged" for special attention by the prosecution, and to ensure full compliance with the policies regarding the conduct of bail hearings, and the prosecution of spousal/partner abuse cases.

    b) Flags on the brief should indicate the nature of violence:
      c/a - child abuse
      p/a - partner abuse
      d/a - sable abuse (sable: spouse abuse by law enforcement)
      e/a - elder abuse.

    c) Where the victim of an offence is a vulnerable person the flag should be coded on CPIC and OMPPAC.

19. When possible, investigating officers should make themselves available in bail court where the case involves domestic assault.

20. Investigating Police officers should be directed by written policy to inform victimsof domestic violence immediately of the time and locationof the bail hearing, and subseqntly of all court appearances of the accused.

21. Police should have the victim's safety foremost in their minds when they list terms for release in the event that the accused is granted bail.

22. Following a bail hearing, the Police have the responsibility of ensuring that the result of the hearing and any release conditions are communicated to the victim. Further, the victim should be provided with a copy of the recognizance or a summary of the bail conditions. The conditions must be explained to the victim including the fact that a no-communication order means that if she contacts the accused, she may precipitate a breach.

23. All bail breaches, but particularly stalking-related bail breaches must be reported to the Crown Attorney forthwith together with an updated assessment of the danger risk.

24. All Police officers should be directed to investigate the first reported incident of domestic violence as a serious, high priority call based on the fact that on averae women experience 35 assaults before reporting to the police.

25. A Victim Services representative should be available to attend bail hearings in the event the victim does not attend to ensure that the victim's position on safety concerns is made known to the court.

26. Each police service should have a domestic violence co-ordinator to liaise with Crown Attorneys, Parole and Probation Services, the Victim/Witness Assistance Programme (VWAP) and other local services responsible for responding to issues related to incidents of domestic violence, and who, will in turn, communicate those issues and initiatives to all members of the police service.

27. Police should develop protocols in conjuction with Victim Witness Assistance and Victim Services staff to ensure that victims in cases which do not go to court continue to receive appropriate community reerrals and supports. Victims cannot be permitted to "fall between the cracks".

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Bail Briefs

1. Policing Services, in consultation with the Ministry of the Attorney General should establish a standard Crown brief protocol for use by all Police Services throughout the Province of Ontario.

2. The contents of the standard Crown bail brief, should be available to all Police Services by computer access in order to ensure that information known to one jurisdiction is available to another, to detect if the accused has outstanding charges and releases for crimes of violence in the another jurisdiction.

3. All briefs should have an envelope with an index on the front cover showing document name, creation date, inclusion date and a disclosure date.

4. On every document inside the brief the number of pages of the document should be indicated and initialed by the creator. When adding a note to the brief, the note must be attached to a full sheet of paper and listed on the front cover of the brief. No 'post-it' notes to be used.

5. Police officers must ensure that all the information in a bail brief is up-to-date. In the case of electronic records that can change over time to reflect new information, these must be updated immediately before and, if necessary, during a bail hearing.

6. Recognizing that the Integrated Justice System project will not be completed for a number of years, current systems should be adapted immediately to include:

    a) Risk assessment information;
    b) Results of bail and other court proceedings;
    c) A domestic violence indicator on all charges in which domestic violence is a factor, and
    d) Bail conditions.

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Systems (OMPPAC and CPIC etc)

1. Police court officers should have courthouse access to CPIC in all jurisdictions in Ontario for immediate criminal record checks and data entry.

2. Police and court officers should enter information related to domestic violence cases, including results of bail hearings and other court appearance on computer Systems immediately, or at least within a maximum of 24 hours, and that officers should be available to enter information on a 24 hour basis.

3. The ViClass information system reports should specifically include high-risk domestic violence crimes such as use of weapons, threats to kill, criminal harassment, assault causing bodily harm, abduction and unlawful confinement, breach of bail conditions etc.

4. All police forces should be obliged to use OMPPAC.

5. Specific search fields within CPIC should include 'domestic violence' as a category in order that the record of anyone involved in violence within an intimate relationship is captured in a search of the accused's criminal past.

6. All Family violence cases should be flagged and tracked separately throughout the system in a standardized manner across the province.

7. Any new pilots or initiatives must have a data collection component so that the effectiveness of the programme may be measured. Data collection components must be added to any existing pilot projects.

8. Pending implementation of the Integrated Justice Project, steps should be taken to improve information available on CPIC.

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1. Training of Police officers should include presentations by independent, front line, community based women's and children's advocates and survivors of domestic violence.

2. All new training materials for Police officers regarding domestic violence should reflect the various needs of women to ensure equality of service.

3. Ontario Police College trainers not seconded from community- based, front line women's services should receive 'train the trainer' education from the representative of these services before beginning to train Police officers.

4. All front line Police officers and their supervisors must receive mandatory on-going, recurring domestic violence training in the following areas:

    a) Investigative techniques for domestic violence;
    b) Safety planning and the use of safety planning checklists;
    c) Risk assessment and the use of risk assessment checklists; and
    d) Lethality factors and the use of the lethality checklists.

5. Police and court officers should be trained to enter information related to domestic violence cases, including results of bail hearings and other court appearances on computer Systems immediately, or at least within a maximum of 24 hours, and that officers with such training be available to enter information on a 24 hour basis.

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