Professor calls for changes to stop domestic violence
by Glynn Brothen
Micah Rankin is a domestic violence court advocate and law professor at TRU.
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May 23, 2014 - 2:38 PM
"YOU COULD CREATE THE DEATH PENALTY FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND PEOPLE WOULD STILL DO IT."
THOMPSON-OKANAGAN – A Thompson Rivers University professor is calling on the province to make immediate changes to protect women and families under threat of domestic violence.
Micah Rankin, a lawyer and criminal law professor at TRU’s law school says the province should integrate law and social services in the creation of domestic violence courts to provide speed and efficiency and to hopefully prevent domestic violence.
“It’s hard to generalize too much in the sense that there are different kinds of domestic violence courts,” said Rankin. “In some cases there are specialized dockets.”
Some courts, including Kamloops, give priority to domestic violence cases but that's not quite enough.
“I’m not really sure if in some people’s mind that really qualifies as a domestic violence court, but it’s a domestic violence docket,” Rankin says.
A domestic violence court would acknowledge that women are far more likely to be assaulted, threatened or murdered by a spouse than anyone else. Court delays have long been a problem, but delays have a “particular acuteness” in domestic violence cases, he says.
“The issue of delay in domestic violence cases is a little different because often the people don’t want to be separated necessarily forever.”
Rankin says domestic violence has multiple levels of severity, but court cases taking three to six months are complicated for all involved parties – particularly when children are involved.
“People aren’t able to go on with their lives and so that creates a lot of tension in them and between them and of course just a lot of problems simply in managing the affairs of their family,” he says. “That’s why I suppose delay is often more significant.”
Other domestic violence courts have designated judges, crown counsel, duty counsel, special courtrooms and related resources such as women and children victim’s rights representation. All of the involved parties have training particular to domestic violence. This model is currently present in Yukon and Manitoba.
“There isn’t a single model but they have the common theme of trying to address different aspects of domestic violence—hopefully to prevent it.”
Both dedicated domestic violence courts have seen a surge in case completion, whereas previously cases were dropped. In Yukon, both offenders and victims are taking advantage of specialized treatment programs to cope with domestic abuse. Yukon domestic violence courts have seen a near 100 per cent retainer in the Spousal Abuse Treatment Program.
Whether a similar court is in the works for the Thompson-Okanagan or province-wide is still up for debate.
“The courts can be part of the solution, but the problem is much bigger than the criminal justice system,” Rankin said.
“From my own point of view there needs to be more structured intervention and part of that is through the process of the court intervening and why I think a domestic violence court is a good way of [doing that]. Part of it is having social services and other mechanisms that permit women, particularly, to escape these abusive situations,” Rankin said.
“I think to that extent if there is a solution that is where it lies.”
Rankin says it’s easy for many to advocate more severe laws or harsher punishment but doesn’t “think it will do much.”
“You could create the death penalty for domestic violence and people would still do it.”
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