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Violence and the problem-solving court The Honourable Judge Nancy A. Flatters Provincial Court of Alberta, Calgary Family and Youth Court prepared for.

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Presentation on theme: "Violence and the problem-solving court The Honourable Judge Nancy A. Flatters Provincial Court of Alberta, Calgary Family and Youth Court prepared for."— Presentation transcript:

1 Violence and the problem-solving court The Honourable Judge Nancy A. Flatters Provincial Court of Alberta, Calgary Family and Youth Court prepared for the IAWJ 2012 London Conference and adapted from a March 2006 programme of judicial training designed and implemented for the Magistracy of Trinidad and Tobago by Canadian Judges Nancy Flatters and Heino Lilles copyright: Nancy Flatters: use or reproduction prohibited without permission - please contact Judge Flatters at:

2 Why Think About a Different Way of Processing DV Cases/Justice? Because: We owe it to our children: our most precious resources; We owe it to our community and the public; DV parties have different needs to be met; and A courthouse has the potential to be a community resource – not a place of last resort* Adapted from Adams and Bussin, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Canadian Courts: A Time for Change, 17 ADVOCATES’ QUARTERLY (1995)

3 Is There a Problem to Fix? From the Systemic Perspective Yes The formal justice system does not work well in DV to promote: rehabilitation of offenders specific and general deterrence reparation/restoration to victims responsibility among offenders prevention of future offending

4 Is There a Problem to Fix? From a Court Perspective Yes proceedings delayed – 4 to 12 months victims recant or fail to appear in court results in high trial collapse rates DV cases inefficient and costly no evidence that punishment reduces DV

5 Is There a Problem to Fix? From The Victim’s Perspective Yes victim’s long-term goals unmet (stop the DV) aggravates economic/social/parenting needs system cannot protect victim zero tolerance/punishment lacks rehabilitation low rates of disclosure/high recantation does not meet changing needs of victim adversarial process re-victimizes

6 Is There a Problem to Fix? From Society’s Perspective Yes DV cases are inefficient and costly adversarial approach reinforces negative stereotype of DV victims for judges, police, and legal counsel no evidence formal system reduces/prevents DV does not interrupt intergenerational impact of violence low reporting rates

7 Why Talk About This? To increase problem solving access to justice in DV cases accessing/framing delivery in an alternate context of non-adversarial DV problem solving access/barriers to justice in the DV context the changed role for the judge/legal counsel/ court in response to DV problem solving alternate/appropriate problem solving framework for DV cases

8 Public’s Need in Accessing Justice* To have disputes and problems resolved quickly cost-effectively efficiently fairly/justly in a system which is understandable responsive effective *See The Right Honourble Lord Woolf, Access to Justice, Final Report, (July 1996)

9 Perceived Barriers to Accessing Justice Systemically (in part) delays attributed to lack of time and resources lack of judicial enforcement in DV – stays and trial collapse Adapted from Lord Woolf, supra

10 Perceived Barriers to Accessing Justice DV responses in a traditional court courts only provide courtrooms and judges to try cases and not problem-solve the system remains geared to resolving DV cases by adversarial methods traditional DV trials take away party control to solve the problem of DV on a consensual basis with input into the decision Adapted from Lord Woolf, supra

11 Overcoming Barriers and Creating Access to Justice in DV Cases Problem-solving assumptions in DV cases early problem solving results in fewer trials/expense a more expedited and accessible forum opportunity for problem solving within traditional court system appropriately tailored approaches leads to greater party satisfaction including the justice system Adapted from Lord Woolf, supra

12 Overcoming Barriers and Creating Access to Justice in DV Cases, con’t Why talk about this? the idea of justice is based on the perception of the operation of law and process on the part of the public using the system the system must be responsive and relevant to the needs of contemporary society result: changed role for judicial officers in taking leadership for managing approaches to resolving DV in a problem solving changed court context Adapted from Lord Woolf, supra

13 Overcoming Barriers and Creating Access to Justice in DV Cases, con’t Process change with judicial leadership: effective alternate systemic case approaches in understanding the critical role of court in DV case management judicial oversight/enforcement appropriately trained staff and supports

14 Overcoming Barriers and Creating Access to Justice in DV Cases, con’t Result changed role of judicial officer in DV cases move from traditional/passive/reactive judging to non-traditional/inter-active/ proactive judging with judicial officers as active problem-solvers changed role of legal counsel in DV cases in move from adversarial litigation to DV problem- solving approach system becomes more responsive to the needs of contemporary society

15 Re-framing the DV Approach Core training/learning for judicial officers: nature of DV in the family attitudes, behaviour and beliefs perpetuating DV behavioural/organic effects of DV on adult/child link to custody/access/parenting cases to reduce fragmentation in DV cases DV as an issue for all professionals/community role of the judicial officer in stopping DV effective approaches and orders effective judicial enforcement

16 DV Is Different – Requires Innovative Responses in a Learning Re-frame repetitive escalates over time victim has ongoing relationship with offender children/property/economic dependency lethality risk increases if seeking help from justice system victim often returns to live with offender DV victims needs are different from other victims

17 Against this Backdrop why a Problem Solving DV Court (DVPSC)? recognizes DV as a serious criminal act requiring an integrated/innovative response is NOT diversion it is a therapeutic problem solving court

18 Avoid Fragmentation: best practice? recall: in DV parties have integrated family/legal issues create a roadmap vision to avoid fragmented multi-court response deal with myths: ex. - placing DVPSC in a family court “diminishes” DV’s criminal nature educate/create public awareness

19 Consider Resources Going Forward increase awareness: ex.: available/wide information re impact of DV on children provision of specialised services community responsibility to assist the court in establishing specialised services effective means to ascertain children’s wishes (caution re judicial interviews)

20 Consider Resources Going Forward child custody legislation needs to reflect the reality of DV community coordination of services to victims, perpetrators, and children to address safety and counselling parenting classes made available for men and women in dv relationships

21 Judicial Officers Lead in Response to DV and Creation of Change Judiciary takes a leadership role by: engaging courtroom professionals in discussing DV problem responses with: crown, defence, probation, treatment providers, government/community groups, victims/families identifying the problems/begin to discuss solutions Purpose: to begin crafting a DVPSC

22 Need To Eliminate DV “Silos” and Create a Circle of Consultation Silo: Police Silo: Victim Services Governmental Services (ex.: Family and Children) Addictions (alchol/drugs) Services Family Counselling and other Services Silo: Medical Hospital Emergency General Practitioners Govenmental: (ex.: Health) Silo: Prosecution Silo: Defence: Private Counsel/ Legal Sevices/Legal Aid

23 Need To Eliminate DV “Silos” and Create a Circle of Consultation Silo Other Agencies Women’s Directorates/Services Status of Women Organisations Women’s Centres Transitional Homes Housing Organizations Silo Client Diversity Programmes Cultural Alcohol and Drug Social Services Probation Services Bail Supervision Probation Parole Offender/Victim/Child Programmes Spousal Abuse Programmes Children’s Programmes/Services Alcohol and Drug Services Family Counselling and others Silo Courts

24 After Talking: Take Action form a Steering Committee for DVPSC of major stakeholders to develop parameters expand to include government/community groups working with DV victims, offenders, children set regular times to develop/review/implement policy/standards/best practices/evaluation establish working groups

25 DVPSC Goals encourage more victims of DV to seek help from the criminal justice system provide a non-adversarial, therapeutic court alternative to formal criminal court fast track/reduce collapse rates for DV cases hold the offender accountable by close court supervision throughout the therapeutic process provide victims/families with protection/ support/information/referral to programmes

26 Other Benefits of DVPSC an emphasis on “healing” with community input into justice system to result in better co-ordination of community resources police/legal counsel/judicial officers more informed about DV victim service workers/counsellors/probation officers/participants better understand the requirements of justice system stimulates development of special programmes: ex.: substance abuse/victim support/female offenders/children

27 Think About Your Thinking: Future Initiatives for Problem Solving Integration at the Outset take a step further and make an integrated overall Problem Solving Court to address underlying behaviors of offenders with substance abuse problems, mental health issues and/or other behavioural/brain disorders assess offenders to offer individual treatment plans court supervision to progress requires: enhancement/coordination/integration of treatment/services to individuals

28 Integrated Response Example: the Family Court of Trinidad and Tobago in March 2006, magistrates attended a training in transforming its traditional DV Court to a DVPSC (“thinking about thinking”) Family Court becomes an integral part in reducing fragmented approaches for families: reflected in services/physical plant result – the holistic needs of the family are met in an integrated place/system responding to the parties’ needs result – problem solving accomplished with judicial leadership/community vision/creative allocation of resources result – problem solving reflected for community a different way of “doing business”

29 Church House Conference Centre London


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