Court Watch IV 2006

The Women’s Court Watch of the Woman Abuse Council of Toronto (WACT) is a community research and education project that places volunteers in provincial criminal courts to observe and monitor woman abuse cases.


§         WACT began our first women’s court watch in 1996 and has completed four separate sessions since that time.   These studies enable us to gain a unique insight into recent trends in the criminal justice response to woman abuse by comparing the current court watch data with information collected in previous sessions.


  • Between February 2006 to September 2006, volunteers observed almost 100 domestic violence cases in 4 of the 5 domestic violence coordinated prosecution courts in Toronto.   Due to the small size and convenience sample, Women’s Court Watch provides a snapshot but not a comprehensive scientific study


§         In almost every area tracked, we found that the criminal justice response in 2006 was less vigorous than three years ago. Compared to 2003, the 2006 study found:


o       smaller percentages of more serious charges laid

o       more charges withdrawn

o       less jail time ordered, less time in pre-trial custody, especially for offenders who were failing to comply with existing court orders  (breach charges)

o       shorter probationary periods

o       higher percentages of absolute discharges


§         The overall message from the information collected is that the domestic violence courts in Toronto are less rigorous and less consistent in providing an effective, meaningful and accountable response to woman abuse compared to 2003.


§         This is particularly disturbing given that over the previous three sessions (1996, 1998 and 2003) Court Watch observed steady improvement through increased use of vigorous prosecution, increasing consequences for re-offenders, and adequate probationary periods.


§         The domestic violence courts are 10 years old. Instead of becoming increasingly more effective and meaningful to both victims as well as abusers, our study suggests that the courts are sliding backwards in their effectiveness, relevance and ability to convey the clear message that abuse is not acceptable.

Type/Format of Resource: WomanACT publications

Category/Topic of interest:
    Woman Abuse

Population Group:
    Friends & Family
    Victims / Survivors
    Health Care Service Providers
    Social Service Providers
    Legal Service Providers
    Criminal Justice
    Male Persons

Language of Resource:

Year of Publication: 2006

Associated Document:
     Court Watch IV 2006 Annual Report (Word document)


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