Toronto Star

Jan. 17, 01:00 EDT

Advocate urged for abused women

Hadley inquest witness says early help is crucial for victim

Peter Small
Toronto Star

Abused women need an advocate to work for them from the time police are called to their homes through their partner's court hearings, the inquest into the murder-suicide of Ralph and Gillian Hadley has been told.

"Many women have felt that things are out of control now and `I am not being consulted about this, plus I am out here on my own,'" testified Eileen Morrow, co-ordinator of the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses.

"We still don't have a process where an advocate is in place before the bail hearing," Morrow said.

On Feb. 28, 2000, Ralph Hadley, 34, was released on bail on charges of criminally harassing Gillian Hadley, 35. She had no input in court, the inquest has heard. Only a month earlier, he had been released after being charged with assaulting his estranged wife.

On June 20, 2000, he broke into their former matrimonial home in Pickering and shot to death the mother of three, then killed himself.

"The bail hearing is critical," Morrow told her group's lawyer, Geri Sanson. "We still have to recognize that is a critical point in the experience of the abuser and of the woman."

The provincial government's victim witness assistance program seldom contacts battered women before the bail hearing, the inquest has heard.

What women need is an independent advocate who is not a government or police employee and will not be afraid to fight for the victim, Morrow added. The advocate should even be there from the time police attend the crime scene, she said.

The victim needs to be consulted "right from the beginning, with support, while the abuser is being held accountable for his behaviour with her input."

Morrow, whose group represents 66 women's shelters, noted that the 1998 inquest into the murder of Arlene May by her lover Randy Iles called for just such an advocate. Morrow said she was disappointed that this and several other key recommendations from that inquest have not been adopted.

That inquest jury's recommendation of a thorough review of funding for women's shelters has not been adopted, she said. The provincial government cut funding to women's shelters by 5 per cent in the first two years after taking power in 1995, she testified.

She disagreed with a suggestion by government lawyer Tom Marshall that the government has replaced much of that cut.

And funding for programs for abused women and children living in transitional, or second-stage, housing was cut by 100 per cent in 1995, though much of the housing's basic operating budget is still provided, she said.

This is subsidized housing, with security measures provided, for abused women and their children, where they can stay for three months to a year.

There is no second-stage housing in Durham Region, where Hadley lived. "Second-stage housing would have been a very valuable service to Gillian Hadley," she testified.

It would have gone a long way to keep her safe "and inaccessible to Ralph Hadley," she said in a later interview.

There are only 23 second-stage facilities in Ontario. Three have closed because of cuts, she said in the interview.

The inquest continues today.

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