FRAMEWORK FOR ACTION AGAINST FAMILY VIOLENCE
(a) The Framework Requirements for Accountability
The Framework recognized that effective implementation would require significant
changes in attitude and practices of justice workers and service providers and that monitoring
mechanisms would be necessary to ensure compliance with the policy.(1)
therefore, required each justice agency to implement a structured audit mechanism to monitor its
response to family violence incidents.(2)
The Framework demanded that the audit mechanism of
each justice agency include mandatory reporting of reasons in cases where charges are not laid
or are subsequently withdrawn.(3)
The audit process was also to report on victim satisfaction with
criminal justice intervention. As well, a tracking system was to be implemented to permit on-going monitoring of cases through the justice system.(4)
The Family Violence Prevention
Initiative (FVPI) was to serve as the repository for family violence outcome measures generated
by all departments.(5)
The FVPI was a government-community committee reporting to the Deputy
Ministers' Committee on Social Policy, comprised of five deputies representing the Departments
of Health, Justice, Community Services, Education and Housing.
(b) The 1999 Evaluation Report
A Committee comprised of representatives of the FVPI, the Nova Scotia Advisory
Council on the Status of Women, the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia, RCMP and
municipal police forces, and Department of Justice was established to develop and oversee the
accountability framework for the initiative. As well, in April 1996 a data collection process was
implemented to collect information on spousal/partner violence reported to police in the
province to track the flow of these cases through the justice system. As noted earlier, police
agencies accepted their responsibility by establishing internal audit systems at municipal police
departments and local RCMP detachments, while RCMP domestic violence files are also
audited centrally by the head office in Halifax, and the Police and Public Safety Services
Division of the Department of Justice conducts audits of municipal police agencies. The
Victims' Services Division of the Department of Justice also developed a mechanism to monitor
its response to victims of intimate partner violence through a file review twice a year. However,
the 1999 Review Committee found that no ongoing monitoring process had been fully
implemented by the Public Prosecution Service, Courts or Correctional Services.(6)
The May to
June 1997 consultation sessions had revealed considerable variation across the province with
respect to the interpretation and implementation of the Framework policies by justice workers.
Recognizing that "[d]eficiencies in the response of any one component of the justice system
jeopardizes the effectiveness of the system as a whole," the 1999 Evaluation Report
recommended that "the Minister of Justice require each component of the criminal justice
system to formally restate their commitment to the Framework for Action Against Family
Violence and articulate the means by which they will monitor adherence to the Framework
(c) 2001 Review
Police agencies and Victims' Services continue to take their monitoring responsibilities
seriously. Police have found the requirement to state why a charge was not laid to be a helpful
accountability mechanism. However, the deficiencies identified in the 1999 Evaluation Report
have not been addressed. While recognizing the importance of accountability measures to
ensure and to identify necessary changes and improvements, the Public Prosecution Service
reports that there has been an audit within the Service of family violence cases, but that "the
methodology has been criticized, consultation with Crown Attorneys has not been done, and the
process is not complete."(8)
Courts and Correctional Services still have not implemented an
ongoing monitoring process.
As well, the data collection process undertaken in April 1996 and completed in August
1998 to track the progress of cases through the justice system has not been repeated, and the
FVPI, which was to serve as the repository for family violence outcome measures generated by
all departments, has been eliminated as a result of the 2000 Provincial budget.
The lack of monitoring and accountability was identified by Crown representatives in the
focus groups as an issue in the Public Prosecution Service. Some Crowns felt that the lack of
internal audit mechanisms had contributed to uneven application of the policy and reinforced
(i) Reports/Evaluations and Monitoring Mechanisms in Other Jurisdictions
Other jurisdictions appear to have limited data collection mechanisms in terms of overall
domestic violence case tracking, as significant components are absent from collection. The
reader is cautioned, however, that jurisdictional representatives interviewed for this report may
not have been fully aware of the data collection, auditing, or accountability mechanisms in place
throughout their jurisdiction (as this happens at various levels) and that further investigation is
required in order to determine precisely what is available. Auditing, monitoring and
accountability mechanisms are important in order to assess effectiveness of strategies and to
Monitoring mechanisms need further investigation but generally appear inadequate in
terms of the ability of jurisdictions to track cases to get an overall picture of the justice system's
response from the point of the call to police to sentence completion. Jurisdictions have had to
rely on special periodic studies to assess justice system performance and, for the most part only,
segments of it. Monitoring is compromised by the absence of integrated justice information
Data is available on certain aspects of domestic violence legislation in the applicable
jurisdictions and Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, and Alberta have each produced
evaluation reports on their legislation. Nova Scotia undertook the most comprehensive tracking
study to date and built a prototype information system to collect the data on an ongoing basis
which was not implemented due to fiscal restraint. New Brunswick built a system based on
aggregate data on family violence cases which continues to be enhanced over time. Manitoba
tracked domestic violence cases in three police sites in the early nineties and has produced
evaluations of the Winnipeg Family Violence Court and related reports. Saskatchewan is
planning to undertake a tracking study of its criminal domestic violence cases. Quebec has
annual reports from policing data. RCMP data captures spousal assaults but not the complete
range of family violence offences. In addition, the Yukon Territory has produced a report on
Spousal Assault and Mandatory Charging.
(d) Conclusions and Recommendations Regarding Accountability
Auditing, monitoring and accountability mechanisms are important in order to assess the
effectiveness of the Framework and to ensure compliance. The 1999 Evaluation Report found
that while police agencies and the Victims' Services Division of the Department of Justice had
accepted their responsibility by establishing internal audit systems, no ongoing monitoring
process had been implemented by the Public Prosecution Service, Courts, or Correctional
Services. That remains true today. As well, the FVPI, which was to serve as the repository for
family violence outcome measures generated by all departments, has been eliminated and the
data collection process undertaken in April 1996 and completed in August 1998 to track
progress through the justice system has not been repeated. In Nova Scotia and elsewhere,
monitoring efforts have been hampered by the absence of integrated justice information systems.
It is recommended that the Minister of Justice require the Public Prosecution Service,
Courts and Registries, and Correctional Services to formally restate their commitment to
the Framework for Action Against Family Violence and require them, within six months of
their restatement, to articulate the means by which they will monitor adherence to the
Framework. It is also recommended that the unimplemented prototype information system
built by the Province to collect data on an ongoing basis to track the progress of the justice
system with respect to domestic violence cases be reviewed, and if at all possible, that it be
1. 1Supra note 10 at 7.
2. 2Supra note 10 at 7.
3. 3Supra note 10 at 7.
4. 4Supra note 10 at 7.
5. 5Supra note 10 at 7.
6. 6Supra note 14 at 42.
7. 7Supra note 14 at ix.
8. 8Supra note 72 at 2.
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