The Victim/Witness Assistance Program: A Support for Women Victims of Violent Crime

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Recorded on February 21, 2013 - In this webinar in the series on Family Law Education for Women (FLEW), the V/WAP program to support victims and witnesses going through the criminal court process is …

Recorded on February 21, 2013 - In this webinar in the series on Family Law Education for Women (FLEW), the V/WAP program to support victims and witnesses going through the criminal court process is discussed. Looking at how women complainants of sexual assault and domestic violence may receive support as the victim or witness in the trial process, Carol Nicholson, a Victim/Witness Support Worker from Peel Region joins Tamar Witelson, Legal Director of the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC).

This webinar is produced by METRAC as part of the Family Law Education for Women (FLEW) series in partnership with CLEO.

An archived version of this webinar along with copies of presentation materials are available at:
http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/webinar/victimwitness-assistance-program-support-women-victims-violent-crime

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  • 1. The Victim/Witness Assistance Program: A Support for Women Victims of Violence www.onefamilylaw.ca A Support for Women Victims of Violence February 21, 2013 21/02/2013 1 Tamar Witelson, Legal Director, METRAC Carol Nicholson, Victim/Witness Service Worker Funded by:Funded by:
  • 2. METRAC METRAC, the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children works to end violence against women, youth and children a not-for-profit, community-based organization www.metrac.org METRAC’s Community Justice Program provides accessible legal information and education for women and service providers provides accessible legal information and education for women and service providers focuses on law that affects women, from diverse backgrounds, especially those experiencing violence or abuse FLEW, Family Law Education for Women in Ontario provides information on women’s rights and options under Ontario family law in 14 languages, accessible formats, online and in print www.onefamilylaw.ca www.undroitdefamille.ca 21/02/2013 2
  • 3. Presenters Tamar Witelson Legal Director, METRAC Carol Nicholson Victim/Witness Service Worker, Peel Region 21/02/2013 3
  • 4. Topics to be Covered 1. Introduction: About the V/WAP Program 2. Who Gets Assistance 3. When Does V/WAP Get Involved 4. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps 5. Non-Confidentiality5. Non-Confidentiality 6. Specific Services 7. Additional Resources Information is accurate as of February 21, 2013 21/02/2013 4
  • 5. Introduction 21/02/2013 5
  • 6. Introduction Victim/Witness Assistance Program Funded by Ontario government Established in 1987 as a pilot project Works closely with the Crown Attorney’s Office 62 sites: in every Court jurisdiction in Ontario 21/02/2013 6
  • 7. Introduction Victim/Witness Assistance Program Established to help victims and witnesses of crime: With information, assistance and supportWith information, assistance and support Through the criminal court process To improve understanding of and participation in criminal court process 21/02/2013 7
  • 8. Introduction Victim/Witness Assistance Program Primary goals: Enhance victim/witness understanding of role in criminal justice system Act as link between victim/witness and Crown Assist victim/witness to regain sense of well- being Help coordinate community supports to assist victims of crime 21/02/2013 8
  • 9. Who Gets Assistance 21/02/2013 9
  • 10. Who Gets Assistance “Victim” in Criminal Code s. 722(4) …a person to whom harm was done or…a person to whom harm was done or who suffered physical or emotional loss as a result of the commission of the offence. 21/02/2013 10
  • 11. Who Gets Assistance Primary Victim The deceased or survivor of criminal act Secondary VictimSecondary Victim Affected by connection to primary victim Family member • Spouse/partner; parent; child Friend; colleague; neighbour Community 21/02/2013 11
  • 12. Who Gets Assistance Witness A person who has seen evidence of a crime • A victim who will testify (witness for the• A victim who will testify (witness for the Crown) • A bystander or witness to events 21/02/2013 12
  • 13. Who Gets Assistance Free Services on a priority basis to vulnerable victims and witnesses of violent crime, including: Sexual assault (recent, historical) Intimate partner abuse (domestic violence) Child abuse Hate CrimesHate Crimes Human Trafficking Highly vulnerable victims: • Elderly • With disabilities Families of murder victims Families of driving fatalities 21/02/2013 13
  • 14. Who Gets Assistance Varied stressors for clients: Trauma/crisis Fear for safety (before, during, after trial) Lack of control Mistrust of judicial system Financial concerns Family pressure Involvement of Child Protection Services Language and/or cultural barriers 21/02/2013 14
  • 15. When Does V/WAP Get Involved 21/02/2013 15
  • 16. When Does V/WAP Get Involved After a criminal charge is laid Services continue until end of case Use of services is voluntary Referrals can be made at any stage of the criminal court process 21/02/2013 16
  • 17. When Does V/WAP Get Involved Referrals may be from: Police Crown Attorney Victim Services/Crisis Assistance Sexual Assault CentresSexual Assault Centres Shelters for abused women Child Protection Services Doctor/Hospital/Therapist Community Agency Self-referral 21/02/2013 17
  • 18. Presenters Tamar Witelson Legal Director, METRAC Carol Nicholson Victim/Witness Service Worker, Peel Region 21/02/2013 18
  • 19. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps 21/02/2013 19
  • 20. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps File assigned At Bail Hearing or shortly afterwards Outreach call General information sessionGeneral information session Court process timelines some case specifics needs assessment community referrals 21/02/2013 20
  • 21. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps Victim/Witness Service Worker cannot: Withdraw charges Discuss evidence Suggest case outcome Give legal advice Provide child care Provide transportation 21/02/2013 21
  • 22. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps Before Preliminary Hearing Explain purpose of hearing Help prepare for Court experience Offer emotional support Coordinate meeting with victim, police, Crown for Court preparation 21/02/2013 22
  • 23. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps At Preliminary Hearing Accompany victim/witness (if there is no other support person) Provide safe and secure environmentProvide safe and secure environment Debrief about experience Explain outcome Explain next steps 21/02/2013 23
  • 24. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps Before Trial Notify of trial date Attend victim/witness meeting with CrownAttend victim/witness meeting with Crown Explain Court proceedings Prepare for Court Discuss media presence 21/02/2013 24
  • 25. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps At Trial Accompany victim/witness (if there is no other support person) Explain Court process (such as opening/closing statement; charge to jury) Give emotional support Explain verdict Help with Victim Impact Statement Debrief about experience Explain next steps 21/02/2013 25
  • 26. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps Third-Party Records Defence may apply to see the victim’s private records from: the victim’s doctor or therapistthe victim’s doctor or therapist school Children’s Aid Society file personal letters, diaries 21/02/2013 26
  • 27. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps Victim/Witness Service Worker: Explains the third party record application Informs of the right to have legalInforms of the right to have legal representation Assists with legal aid information Resumes support when hearing continues 21/02/2013 27
  • 28. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps Sexual History Evidence General evidence of past sexual behaviour is usually not admissible Defence can argue in certain circumstancesDefence can argue in certain circumstances that past sexual behaviour is relevant Victim/Witness Service Worker: explains defence application and the process 21/02/2013 28
  • 29. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps Aids to help very vulnerable victims/witnesses to testify: Victim/Witness Service Worker can explain options for different ways to testify Options may be granted by Judge in specific circumstances: Support person sitting near witness during testimony Testify behind a screen or on video Ban on reporting the identity of witness Appoint lawyer to cross-examine witness when accused doesn’t have a lawyer 21/02/2013 29
  • 30. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps Victim Impact Statement A voluntary, written statement that describes harm suffered by victim of offence Gives victim a voice in criminal justice system Allows victim to participate in sentencing of offender 21/02/2013 30
  • 31. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps Victim/Witness Service Worker will: Explain purpose of Victim Impact Statement Court exhibit Reviewed by defenceReviewed by defence Available to media Help prepare statement Format (letter, video, photos) Read in Court or offer support 21/02/2013 31
  • 32. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps After Trial Discuss outcome (convicted, acquitted) Explain sentenceExplain sentence Provide Court documents probation terms, contact numbers contact for National Parole Board Discuss possible next steps 21/02/2013 32
  • 33. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps Partner Assault Response Program (PAR) In domestic violence cases Specialized counseling and educational services for people convicted of assaulting anservices for people convicted of assaulting an intimate partner Court will order offender to attend PAR program as part of sentence 21/02/2013 33
  • 34. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps Victim/Witness Service Worker: Gives information about PAR program Stays in contact with client to offer support Reports on partner’s attendance at PAR program Helps with safety planning while partner attends PAR program Refers to other community resources 21/02/2013 34
  • 35. Steps in the Process: How V/WAP Helps Post Trial Events if appeal, may attend Court of Appeal if parole considered, may attend National Parole Board hearingParole Board hearing if accused found not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder, may attend Review Board hearing Provide hearing updates and documents 21/02/2013 35
  • 36. Non-Confidentiality 21/02/2013 36
  • 37. Non-Confidentiality Victim/Witness Service Worker: Is not a lawyer Works closely with Crown Attorney and police Will not keep information from clientWill not keep information from client confidential Has a duty to report suspected breach of law Breach of bail conditions Child at risk of abuse or neglect 21/02/2013 37
  • 38. Specific Services 21/02/2013 38
  • 39. Specific Services Victim/Witness Service Workers: Provide ongoing information about case status and timelines Discuss safety and safety planningDiscuss safety and safety planning Offer emotional support and support referrals Give orientation about Court process 21/02/2013 39
  • 40. Specific Services Victim/Witness Service Workers: Explain criminal justice processes before, during, after trial Communicate victim/witness’ input to CrownCommunicate victim/witness’ input to Crown Advocate for victim/witness’ needs in Court process Refer and coordinate community services 21/02/2013 40
  • 41. Presenters Tamar Witelson Legal Director, METRAC Carol Nicholson Victim/Witness Service Worker, Peel Region 21/02/2013 41
  • 42. Additional Resources 21/02/2013 42
  • 43. Sexual Assault Sexual Assault is: any unwanted physical contact or touching of a sexual nature includes attempts and threats of unwanted sexual contact is not limited to sexual penetration does not have to cause physical trauma such as cuts or bruises Anyone can be a victim of sexual assault: woman, man, child Anyone can be the perpetrator of sexual assault: regardless of relationship to the victim spouse, boyfriend, partner, family member, friend, colleague, stranger 21/02/2013 43
  • 44. Additional Resources (Sexual Assault) Ontario Victim Services Secretariat www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/service_standards/service_sta ndards_victim_services.asp Victim Crisis Assistance and Referral Services (VCARS) Immediate, on-site service to victims of crime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week Toll-free: 1-888-579-2888 Toronto: 416-314-2447 Victim Support Line (VSL)Victim Support Line (VSL) www.ontario.ca/victimservices province-wide, multilingual, toll-free information line providing a range of services to victims of crime Services available from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., 7 days a week in 13 languages Toll-free: 1-888-579-2888 Toronto: 416-314-2447 Court Prep www.courtprep.ca provides information on the Canadian legal system and prepares victims and witnesses to give evidence 4421/02/2013
  • 45. Domestic Violence and Abuse Abuse can be: physical violence threats of harm treatment that causes emotional or psychological suffering Assess safety: make a safety plan ensure she and her children are safe In most emergencies, call 911 21/02/2013 45
  • 46. Additional Resources (Domestic Violence and Abuse) For information, if your partner is abusive or violent: Assaulted Women’s Helpline http://www.awhl.org/ 24 hours/7 days; multiple languages Toll-free: 1-866-863-0511;
TTY: 1-866-863-7868 Legal Aid Ontario http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/getting/type_domesticviolence.asp Available to every immigration status Free telephone interpretation services for languages other than English andFree telephone interpretation services for languages other than English and French Toll-free: 1-800-668-8258; TTY: 1-866-641-8867 Family Violence Authorization Program (Legal Aid Ontario) Free 2-hour emergency meeting with a lawyer Offered through some shelters and community legal clinics Toll-free: 1-800-668-8258; TTY: 1-866-641-8867 FLEW (Family Law Education for Women) Resources page http://www.onefamilylaw.ca/en/resources/ 21/02/2013 46
  • 47. Additional Resources (Family) Assaulted Women’s Helpline www.awhl.org Toll-free: 1-866-863-0511; TTY: 1-866-863-7868 Toronto: 416-863-0511 Legal Aid Ontario http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/getting/default.asp Toll-free: 1-800-668-8258; TTY: 1-866-641-8867 Toronto: 416-979-1446 (accepts collect calls) Family Law Information Centres (FLICs) http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/getting/type_family.asphttp://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/getting/type_family.asp Family Law Services Centres (FLSCs) http://www.legalaid.on.ca/en/contact/contact.asp?type=flsc Family Law Education for Women (FLEW) http://www.onefamilylaw.ca/en/resources/ Femmes ontariennes et droit de la familles (FODF) http://undroitdefamille.ca/ Ontario Women’s Justice Network (OWJN) www.owjn.org 4721/02/2013
  • 48. Additional Resources (General) Law Society of Upper Canada Lawyer Referral Service www.lsuc.on.ca/with.aspx?id=697 Toll-free: 1-800-268-8326 Toronto: 416-947-3330 TTY: 416-644-4886 Justice Net www.justicenet.ca/directory/search/ not-for-profit servicenot-for-profit service resource for low income people who don’t qualify for Legal Aid lawyers who work for a reduced fee Toll-free: 1-866-919-3219 Find a community legal clinic near you www.legalaid.on.ca/en/contact/contact.asp?type=cl Legal Aid www.legalaid.on.ca 4821/02/2013
  • 49. Additional Resources (General) Ministry of the Attorney General www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/ Toll free: 1-800-518-7901 TTY: 1-877-425-0575 Finding Community Services in OntarioFinding Community Services in Ontario www.211canada.ca 4921/02/2013
  • 50. Additional Resources (General) Online forms http://www.ontariocourtforms.on.ca/english/family/ Ontario Court Forms Assistant https://formsassistant.ontariocourtforms.on.ca/Welcome.aspx?lang=en Get help online to complete family court forms Ontario Courts http://www.ontariocourts.on.ca/ Online guide provides an overview of all courts in Ontario Information on family courts: • Superior Court of Justice http://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/en/famct/ • Ontario Court of Justice http://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/family-court/overview/ Ontario Court Locations http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/courts/Court_Addresses/ Find court addresses across Ontario 21/02/2013 50