Time to act on domestic violence: watchdog

by Dirk Meissner
Victoria – The Canadian Press, June 2, 2010

It’s time for the B.C. government to move from talking about fighting domestic violence to implementing reforms that could save lives, says the province’s children’s representative.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond’s comments came Tuesday after yet another report that calls for the development of a unified approach to combat domestic violence.

“These issues require leadership,” Ms. Turpel-Lafond said. “They require resources. They require improving policy and systems in British Columbia where they don’t exist. So, they are tough.”

In the past 10 months, the Liberal government has received three separate reports related to the need for more government action on domestic violence.

Tuesday’s report from a coroner’s death review panel made 19 recommendations after a review of 29 domestic-violence deaths in British Columbia.

Among the recommendations, the panel said domestic violence cases should be fast-tracked through the courts and there should be a specific designation for cases involving a high risk of serious harm or death.

The panel also called on the province to ensure swift justice for accused abusers.

The September 2007 murder-suicide deaths of five members of a Victoria-area family yielded two major domestic-violence reports aimed at the government.

Six-year-old Christian Lee was stabbed to death by his father, Peter Lee, who also murdered his wife Sunny, and her parents in a fit over the family’s breakup.

Peter Lee, who weeks earlier tried to kill his wife in a staged car accident, was on bail and under court order to stay away from the family home when he climbed through a basement window and committed the murders before killing himself.

The inquest jury made several recommendations in December 2009, including calling for the creation of a provincewide domestic violence unit, tighter bail restrictions for accused offenders and the development of a public domestic violence campaign that includes an elementary school program.

In September 2009, Ms. Turpel-Lafond released an 88-page report on the death of Christian Lee, noting that the family crossed paths with many service providers, including three police departments, social workers, medical staff, Crown counsel, two therapists and several lawyers.

But the experienced and professional bodies were not working together, and a human tragedy followed, the report said. It found that there was no communication or co-ordination between the child welfare and criminal justice systems.

Ms. Turpel-Lafond

said a co-ordinated system linking the criminal, child welfare and family justice systems could have made a difference.

The death review panel called for the agencies named in the report, including government ministries, the chiefs of police, law society and chief coroner, to respond to the recommendations by June 30.

The panel wanted more consistency and better information sharing between government agencies dealing with domestic violence cases.

The recommendations come from a study of 11 domestic violence incidents in British Columbia between 1995 and 2009.

The panel noted that a 2008 B.C. Coroner’s Service review of 605 homicides between January 2003 and August 2008 found that 73 were domestic-violence deaths that included 55 females and 18 males.

“I want to now move from the ‘We have to study it and review it stage,’ to the ‘We need to go forward with implementation,’” Ms. Turpel-Lafond said. “The tide is really turning where … what we want to see is where is the progress.”

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/time-to-act-on-domestic-violence-watchdog/article1588992/?cmpid=rss1