Charges of assault, threats and harassment are the ones which commonly arise out of domestic disputes or relationships gone bad.
Most cases of Domestic violence involve offences committed by one spouse against the other but occasionally parents are charged under the Criminal Code with physical abuse of their children.
In years past cases of assault or threats alleged by women against their husbands or boyfriends were not treated very severely. Cases of battered women’s syndrome were seldom recognized and it was routine for charges to be dropped when women asserted that there was an explanation or excuse for the violent behaviour. Explanations usually involved admissions of faulty behaviour on the part of the alleged victim, such as drunkenness and/or provocation of the accused spouse.
The social awareness generated by numerous highly publicized cases of spousal abuse resulting in the death of either the victim or the perpetrator gave rise to the adoption of policies and programs enabling the police and the courts to deal much more effectively with these cases. On the policing side, directives are universally in effect requiring police officers responding to domestic emergency calls to take action regardless of whether the caller changes her or his mind and tries to assure the officers that “there is no problem”. If there is any indication of an assault or threat having occurred arrest is virtually inevitable, usually resulting in bail conditions requiring the accused offender to find another residence and not communicate with the alleged victim while the case is dealt with by the courts. At court, specialized social workers meet each alleged victim and serve as liaison between the victim and the prosecutor. No decisions in the case are taken without consulting the alleged victim.
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