Some thoughts for the New Committee dealing with violence against women

Recently the NL government announced a new committee to deal with violence against women.  Apparently further discussion is just what this pressing issue needs since they are doing it on an invitation only basis I wonder what additional input they expect to receive.

One problem I see is that helping women in the criminal code has required taking a whole new look at how trials are conducted. Because as always in order for the law to be drafted in an effort to level the field for victims, the law must do away with some rights for the accused. “Rape Shield,” comes to mind. That is where the accused cannot ask questions in court of the victim directly. Teleconferencing is available for witnesses. Sometimes a support person sits with the victim at trial. Most powerfully, a victim can never be asked questions as to her own sexual past. Allowing for misuse this did away with entire defense theories. While this is fine and necessary, it all chips away at the belief that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

So I think we have to accept that what we need first of all is some agreement as to what other rights to an accused person can be taken away to improve the ability of police and social workers to protect victims of violence against women.

One problem I see is the issue with stricter sentencing. I am concerned that if someone assaults a women knowing that a serious sentence will result, things could get even worse. In the USA there are life sentences for three strike offenders in some states. That means a fellow caught stealing from a store could decide to shoot the store owner in order to avoid arrest and life in jail.

After all, at that point they don’t have anything to lose. Maybe that same problem would exist here if we punished the offender into a point of desperation. In other words if a man beats a women nearly to death; will he consider the more severe penalty he now faces from the law; do a cost benefit analysis and kill her instead. No witness.

hammer-719068_128021Whenever new laws are made the ripples of reaction to them will go where they may. Because on the other side of the equation is the argument that a harsh sentence can act as a deterrent.

More optimistically what if a man thinks about doing time for a first assault? He could rethink the situation? That is possible of course and it may be what is needed in most situations. Forget the oafs who shout that they were out of control and that their lady made them do it. People do have control over their actions and no one wants to go to jail. Apparently many European countries like Norway, have so toughened up traffic laws around drunk driving, that it is now almost unheard of. Imagine if that were to be the case with spouse abuse. What if the average offender thought twice about assaulting someone because they knew that a minimum period of jail would result?

Changes to sentencing in the Criminal Code of Canada have to come from the national level. Fortunately the province can add punch to police powers upon arrest. As they do with tickets why not an automatic night in jail on a charge? As bad as that sounds for a spurned boyfriend, it may be worth it if it means fewer attacks. Currently we have emergency protection orders, a sort of instant peace bond for potentially violent situations. The province can try more measures like that.

Education for students is a good idea. And letting teens know the legal and criminal consequences of violent actions I relationships. Even if they do not fully understand how to stop it, it never hurts to remind people of how bad it will get for offenders. Everyone is usually in control of their actions afterall.

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