Articles

June 01, 2010
The Canadian Press – Written by Dirk Meissner

VICTORIA – A panel that reviewed 29 domestic violence deaths in British Columbia is calling on the provincial government to ensure swift justice for accused abusers. The province's first domestic violence death review panel issued a report Tuesday containing 19 recommendations aimed at preventing such deaths in the future. Among their recommendations, the panel said domestic violence cases should be fast-tracked through the courts and there should be a specific designation for cases where there is a high risk of serious harm or death.

The panel wants the agencies named in the review, including B.C. government ministries, the chiefs of police, law society and chief coroner, to respond to the recommendations by June 30.

The panel also called for more consistency and better information-sharing between government agencies when dealing with domestic violence cases. The recommendations come from a study of 11 domestic violence incidents in British Columbia between 1995 and 2009.

Fourteen females and 15 males died, including three children. Of those deaths, 21 were homicides and eight were suicides.

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 -- 55 females and 18 males.

Mike Farnworth, the Solicitor General critic for the Opposition New Democrats, called the report a call to action for the B.C. government, which has said fighting domestic violence is one of its top justice issues.

"Today's report is another wake-up call in one of many that the government needs to take more action than they've been taking," Farnworth said. Acting Solicitor General Mike de Jong said the government is working to develop strategies to ensure all government, police and justice agencies involved in preventing and prosecuting domestic violence cases are working together.

"The report emphasizes correctly that one of the biggest challenges relates to co-ordination between officials, co-ordination between departments and everyone has the same concerns but it all works better when information is being shared," he said.

Many of the recommendations are similar to those made last year at a coroner's inquest into the murder-suicide that took the life of six-year-old Christian Lee in Victoria. Christian's father Peter Lee stabbed himself to death after killing his wife, son and his wife's parents.

A separate report last year by B.C. children's watchdog, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, called for better co-ordination among government, police and justice agencies when it comes to domestic violence.

The report also called for the establishment of a separate B.C. court to deal with domestic violence. A panel reviewing domestic violence deaths in B.C. has issued 19 recommendations for preventing such deaths, including fast-tracking cases through the courts and designating cases where there is a high risk of serious harm or death.

The panel also calls for more consistency and better information-sharing between government agencies when dealing with domestic violence cases. The recommendations come from a study of 11 domestic violence deaths in B.C. between 1995 and 2009. Fourteen women and fifteen men died, including three children.

Many of the recommendations are similar to those made last year at a coroner's inquest into the murder-suicide that took the life of six-year-old Christian Lee, his mother and his grandparents in Victoria. The province's chief coroner has given various government and law enforcement agencies one month to respond to the recommendations.