147 women were murdered in BC between January 2003 and August 2008. About 40% of these women were murdered by their spouses in a domestic dispute. The corresponding number for men is about 3%.
There are no two ways around it: Domestic violence in BC – as it is everywhere – is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women, by men who are partnered to those women.
In 2003 the BC Liberal government threw out BC’s “no tolerance” policy governing domestic violence prosecutions. There’s an interesting discussion in Hansard with Geoff Plant dismissing Joy MacPhail’s concerns about escalating violence and growing legal roadblocks for victims.
MacPhail’s concerns came true.
Just over a year ago a Domestic Violence Death Review Panel was appointed to review BC’s escalating and increasingly horrific deaths of women and children from domestic violence.
The Death Review Panel reported out to the BC Chief Coroner with 19 recommendations to 7 different BC Liberal Ministers. For example, the report contained recommendations to the Ministry of Children and Family Development to repair programs that had been cut when Christy Clark was minister.
But the key recommendations were to the Attorney General and Minister of Public Safety calling for greater coordination between ministries and tougher rules for prosecution, including
- a standard definition of spousal abuse,
- a standard guide to investigation, and
- standard information presented to Crown Counsel to inform prosecutorial decisions and remove arbitrary decision making.
The point was to standardize and speed up the decision to prosecute. Once the decision is made the Death Review Panel recommended the first court appearance be within 10 days with a trial date set within 60 days of the offense.
The fast tracking is critical. Experience says the longer the delay the better it is for an alleged offender.
The recommendations haven’t been implemented. So much for family friendly.
What brings me to write about this? The special process provided BC Liberal MLA Pat Pimm in his domestic abuse case.
Last month Pimm, the BC Liberal MLA for Peace River North, spent the night in jail following his arrest related to a domestic dispute incident. Two days ago the government appointed a Special Prosecutor to recommend for or against charges.
We know nothing more.
There are two things wrong with this picture: the continuing dysfunction of the government when it comes to dealing with domestic violence and the discredited Special Prosecutor system.
The BC Liberal cuts and policy changes in the area of domestic violence are still in place despite the deaths and well-meaning reports. And the Special Prosecutor system that sets up a separate prosecution track for politicians, with prosecutors selected by the government in power, remains unchanged despite the troubling revelations of the Kash Heed prosecution.
Add those two things together and here’s what we get in the Pimm case;
- A domestic abuse case with no timelines for a report on charges, appearance dates or trial dates,
- No assurances the investigation was conducted in a way that conforms to an acceptable standard for domestic violence cases,
- No assurance the Special Prosecutor will have to give primary consideration to a set of standard information when deciding on charges, and
- No assurances the Special Prosecutor will be guided by the overall standards recommended by the Death Review Panel.
In short all the problems highlighted by the Death Review panel, magnified by the dragged out, and inadequate Special Prosecutor system.
There is already talk that the victim in the incident won’t testify. That’s a typical result of a broken domestic abuse system, a result the Death Panel Review warned about.
The system for prosecuting domestic violence cases in BC remains broken. So to is the Special Prosecutor system. Put them together and you have a recipe for cynicism and special treatment that will likely benefit another sitting Liberal MLA., while shutting the victim out.
(I note that none of the MSM provided any context regarding the government’s appalling record on domestic violence in their coverage of the Pimm case – including the government’ lack of response to the Death Panel Review. They may not think it’s relevant. I do.)