Today's Globe has a solidly written story by Kirk Makin about a deeply problematic case from Nova Scotia.
A battered woman, after separating from her abusive husband, tried to have him murdered. She was unsuccessful as the "killer" was an undercover police officer. The Court said no criminal liability attached because she had no alternative -- peace bonds were worthless.
I'd like to read the decision, rather than just a news story, but certainly it is true that someone who is prepared to kill won't be stopped by a peace bond. Safe houses only go so far to protect abused women.
On the other hand, it's hard to see what justifies hiring a contract killer to murder someone. Moreover, if it is appropriate to kill your abusive ex, what about gang members afraid of other gangs -- can they have shoot outs without committing a crime if they are "living in a state of terror"?Once more, someone trivializes the violence that a large number of women experience at the hands of a minority of men. This violence is psychological and physical, it is pervasive, it is persistent and the men who use it to control women and children are recidivists (their victims are numerous because their crimes are habitual).
This item in the Winnipeg Free Press offers an accurate picture of the constant fear and turmoil typical of many abused spouses.
On March 29, Doucet's legal ordeal ended when the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal upheld her acquittal on charges of counselling murder for trying to hire someone to kill her ex-husband. She testified that she took this step -- thwarted because she made the overture to an undercover police officer -- because she was terrified that she or her child, or both, would be murdered.
Poignantly, she also said she was grateful to be placed in detention in a hospital for assessment on her arrest, while her daughter was protected by social services. For the first time she and her child were safe, and she could breathe. She asked to stay longer, in fact. [...]
Justice Farrar heard volumes of testimony by Doucet, much of it quoted in the Court of Appeal's decision. The detailed reproduction of her testimony and the factual findings of the trial judge provide a window into women's experiences of entrapment and the failure of police to respond to the danger faced by women and their children. Doucet described how she was isolated, controlled, assaulted and threatened by her husband over 13 years. She finally broke free.
But, she testified, he would not let her go. He continued to stalk her, showing up at her place of work, and providing morbid details about how he would kill and bury her and their daughter. She went into hiding and contacted victim services, who told her that peace bonds are "worthless." On nine occasions, police declined to help her because it was "a civil matter." Tellingly, perhaps, the Crown did not call her former husband as a witness to contradict her evidence.
Chief Justice Michael MacDonald for the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal commented on the fact an undercover officer called her "to offer to do the job" as part of a "sting" operation when Doucet was in an acutely vulnerable state: "It is ironic ... that one of the agencies she had appealed to, the police, was actually the avenue which presented itself to her to solve her problem."
Ironic indeed, as police resources, supported by community agencies can be better deployed and more efficiently utilized with regard to domestic/spousal abuse which, unchecked, escalates and typically ends with the murder of women and children, and the suicide of the man responsible for the campaign of terror.Programs that have demonstrated a degree of success in preventing this outcome have one key element in common. Court-ordered restraining orders aka "peace bonds" are rigorously enforced by the police. In the 1990s, under the leadership of a female police chief, Quincy Massachusetts' legal, medical and educational organizations established joint programs that dramatically reduced the prevalence of domestic violence.