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Domestic Homicides & Death Reviews: The Canadian Experience Myrna Dawson Canada Research Chair in Public Policy in Criminal Justice Public Policy in Criminal.

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Presentation on theme: "Domestic Homicides & Death Reviews: The Canadian Experience Myrna Dawson Canada Research Chair in Public Policy in Criminal Justice Public Policy in Criminal."— Presentation transcript:

1 Domestic Homicides & Death Reviews: The Canadian Experience Myrna Dawson Canada Research Chair in Public Policy in Criminal Justice Public Policy in Criminal Justice University of Guelph Ontario, Canada Queensland Centre for Domestic & Family Violence Research April 5, 2012

2 Consider the following three scenarios… (1) A stranger enters a woman’s home; after a struggle, he pulls out a gun and shoots her; (2) A man enters the home of a woman, his estranged female partner; there is a struggle and he pulls out a gun and shoots her; (3) A man and a woman – husband and wife – are at home; there is a struggle, he gets his gun and shoots her.

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5 Linking social & legal changes to declines… Exposure Reduction Framework… …three changes that may reduce exposure:  Increasing gender equality  Changing relationship structures  Increasing domestic violence resources (Dawson et al. 2009; Dugan et al. 2003)

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11 Evolution of DVDRCs in Canada  Ontario implemented first domestic violence death review committee in  In response to recommendations from two Coroner’s inquests into the killings of Gillian Hadley and Arlene May by their estranged male partners;  Canadian Think Tank on Prevention of Domestic Homicides held in 2008 involving five provinces.

12 Evolution of DVDRCs in Canada (cont’d)  New Brunswick, Office of the Chief Coroner (2010)  Manitoba, Ministry of the Attorney General (2010)  British Columbia, Chief Coroner of British Columbia (2010; One time only review)  A National Think Tank on Domestic Violence and Homicide Prevention was held in 2010 involving all provinces and territories.

13 The Ontario DVDRC  Goal: To better understand, intervene and help in the prevention of domestic violence related killings  Mandate: To assist the Coroner with investigation and review of domestic violence related deaths and make recommendations aimed at prevention.  Membership: Experts from healthcare, social services, law enforcement, criminal justice, research and other public safety agencies and organization.  Review criteria: Homicides of a person and/or their child(ren) by an intimate partner/ex-partner who may also have commit suicide following the homicide.

14 The Ontario DVDRC (cont’d) Objectives: (1) to conduct confidential, in-depth reviews of some cases to understand why they occurred and how they might have been prevented; (2) to maintain a comprehensive database on all cases to identify trends, risk factors & patterns; (3) to identify possible points of intervention that could assist with the prevention of similar deaths in the future by improving on systemic gaps or shortcomings through targeted recommendations.

15 Reviews  Total reviews : 111 cases, 178 deaths over 8 years.  Reports: The 8 th annual report and most recent was released in 2011; focused on 2010 case reviews of 18 cases involving 36 deaths. Statistical Overview for Ontario  Victims: 96% women; 4% men;  Accused: 94% men; 6% women  Type of homicide: Single homicide (45%); homicide-suicides (38%); attempt homicide-suicides, multiple homicides and homicide-suicides (17%).

16 Reviews  Type of relationship: - 52% Legal spouse - 28% Dating (boy/girlfriend & same-sex) - 28% Dating (boy/girlfriend & same-sex) - 20% Common-law partner  Length of relationship: - 11%Less than one year - 68% Between 1 and 10 years - 32% More than 10 years  Children in common: 47%  Cause of death: : 32% stabbing; 26% gunshot wounds; 42% other (beating/strangulation).

17 Top 10 risk factors identified #1: History of domestic violence (78%) #2: Actual or pending separation (78%) #3: Obsessive behaviour by perpetrator (63%) #4: Perpetrator depressed (59%) #5: Escalation of violence (53%) #6: Prior threats to commit suicide (53%) #7: Prior threats to kill victim (47%) #8: Victim had intuitive sense of fear (42%) #9: History of violence outside the family (42%) #10: Perpetrator unemployed (40%)

18 And following close behind… Access to or possession of firearms: 39% Access to or possession of firearms: 39% Excessive alcohol and/or drug use: 38% Excessive alcohol and/or drug use: 38% Control most/all of victim daily activities: 37% Control most/all of victim daily activities: 37% Actual/perceived new partner of victim: 37% Actual/perceived new partner of victim: 37%

19 Defining risk factors Example #1: Perpetrator depression Risk factor #26: In the opinion of any family, friends or acquaintances, and regardless of whether or not the perpetrator received treatment, the perpetrator displayed symptoms characteristic of depression. Risk factor #27: A diagnosis of depression by any mental health professional (e.g. family doctor; psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse practitioner) with symptoms recognized by the DSM-IV, regardless of whether or not the perpetrator received treatment.

20 Defining risk factors (cont’d) Example #2: Prior threats to commit suicide Risk factor #6: Any recent (past 6 months) act or comment made by the perpetrator that was intended to convey the perpetrator’s idea or intent of committing suicide, even if the act or comment was not taken seriously. These comments could have been made verbally, or delivered in letter format, or left on an answering machine. These comments could range from explicit to implicit.

21 Example #1: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) Recommendation #1: In order to assist CIC and the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) in fulfilling their duties and responsibilities, information pertaining to any domestic violence occurrence involving immigration applicants and/or their families or sponsors should be communicated between local law enforcement or social service agencies and the federal immigration authorities

22 Example #1 Recommendation #2: CIC should develop domestic violence training programs for all its agents and officers to emphasize that withdrawal of sponsorship or denial of immigration applications or claims may result in or lead to violence. It should prepare agents/officers who may be adjudicating claims from remote locations to consider making appropriate referrals to law enforcement/social service agencies dealing with applicants, families and/or sponsors where there is a history or reported threats of domestic violence.

23 Example #2: Minister of Public Safety Recommendation: It is recommended to the federal Minister of Public Safety that applications for firearms Possession Acquisition Licence (PAL) should include a medical waiver signed by the applicant. This would allow investigators access to information pertaining to the mental health of the applicant. There should also be higher standards and more restrictions for individuals applying for a firearms PAL when they have had previous licenses revoked or removed.

24 Example #3: Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services Recommendation: “Police services across Ontario should consider implementing procedures that stipulate that when there are grounds to arrest and/or charge a person in relation to a domestic assault, and where there are public safety issues, or a delay in processing the charges, the accused should immediately be placed on the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) as a Special Interest Police (SIP) entry, advising that grounds exist to arrest.”

25 Three concluding comments: - Domestic violence death reviews address a need that was not being addressed; - ‘No blame or shame’ culture of reviews necessary to facilitate 3Cs (communication, cooperation and collaboration); - Identifying how to determine the impact of domestic violence death reviews on violence prevention.

26 Thank you! For more information or reports, contact:


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