Government expands services to protect women, children
Nancy King email@example.com
Published on April 28, 2017
SYDNEY, N.S. - The Crown attorney who works in Sydney’s pilot domestic violence court is welcoming news the court has been made permanent under this week’s provincial budget.
The budget tabled Thursday included expanded services to protect women and address domestic violence, including making the domestic violence court permanent and also plans to expand it to other regions of the province.
The court began in Sydney in 2012 as a three-year pilot project and was extended into 2016-17.
Crown attorney Diane McGrath has been involved with the court since its inception. Its purpose is to offer increased safety for the victims and their children while also making the offender accountable for criminal behaviour.
The program is voluntary and the accused must plead guilty and participate in programming to change their violent behaviour.
“We’re very happy to see that the commitment remains strong and that we’re going to have the court on a permanent basis and as well that it seems to be expanding to other parts of the province,” she said in a phone interview.
There is a dedicated Crown, legal aid lawyer, probation officer and victim services officer assigned to the court that handles offences eligible for community-based sentences.
“It’s primarily I guess based more as a therapeutic type of court so it’s predicated on the offender accepting responsibility for the behaviour that led to the commission of the offence,” McGrath said. “Then what the focus is after that point is essentially to … have an offender participate in the services that are necessary to ensure that that type of behaviour doesn’t occur again.”
Among the unique challenges facing the court is that it really involves working with families to help them address the stresses that have led to the offending behaviour.
McGrath noted that in some instances the offender and victim remain in a relationship or have ongoing contact due to sharing children. The court also works in conjunction with child welfare authorities.
Other criteria for the domestic violence court include being at least 18 years old; the offence must be eligible for community-based sentence; the accused cannot be in custody; offences must have occurred in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality; offenders also agree to participate in recommended programming; consent to information sharing and must abide by conditions of court orders.