Explaining Domestic Assault Trials And Pleading Guilty

Those accused of a domestic assault have to appear in a domestic court that deals specifically with issues arising from domestic violence.

The Province of Ontario has established domestic courts in most major communities. Through the Attorney General, the province has also trained Crown Attorneys to deal specifically with domestic issues. In addition, the Crown is trained and provides the Victim/Witness Assistance Program known as the VWAP. The purpose of this program is to assist all victims of crime, and specifically, victims of domestic violence.

People who are released and cannot go home have a great expectation that the matter is going to be resolved or concluded on the first appearance in court. This, however, is an extremely rare occurrence. On the first court appearance the accused person will receive disclosure of all the evidence the Crown has against him. This will usually include statements from the complainant and any witnesses that were present, and copies of the police officers’ notes. This will also include any information with respect to injuries and any other relevant material. The case will then be adjourned so that the accused and his lawyer can review the evidence and consider the defense.

On the next appearance, if all goes well, the accused’s lawyer may be in a position to discuss the case with the Crown Attorney. That is an ideal scenario, but usually there are delays because a person goes in without a lawyer and is not aware of what he needs to do or what he should be doing and that creates further appearances.

In minor cases, where there have been no or minor injuries, where no weapon has been used or threatened to be used, and the accused has no prior record, the accused may be eligible for and offered a “diversion.” Here the typical offering is this: if the accused pleads guilty, he can enter a Partner Abuse Response Counseling Program for sixteen weeks counseling. If the accused successfully completes the counseling, the Crown can suggest to the Judge that a conditional discharge and a year’s probation be the appropriate sentence.

Why would a person take that offer? The Crown offers an incentive. If the accused pleads guilty, the bail and the surety are waived and he can return home to his family right away.

If a spouse does not admit to assaulting his spouse, he cannot go home and must set a trial date that could be six or eight months away. The anomaly here is that the law considers an accused person to be innocent until proved guilty. If a person insists upon his right to be presumed innocent, then the judicial separation could continue for months and he gives up his right to go home right away. The offer of “diversion” is a tempting one.

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If you, or someone you care about, is dealing with criminal law issues in the Newmarket, Ontario Region, contact Hobson & Reeve Barrsiters for a consultation.

This article is taken from a October 10, 2007 interview with Dennis J. Reeve LL.B., Criminal Lawyer with Hobson & Reeve, Newmarket, Ontario Criminal Lawyers. Note that laws vary from province to province. Please consult with a lawyer in your own area to be sure of the laws and specific issues in your own jurisdiction.