Durham Region

Jury speaks on murder-suicide

Stephen Shaw, Staff Writer 02/10/02 00:00:00
Ajax News Advertiser

TORONTO - Funding to end "unacceptable" subsidized housing waiting lists, increased social assistance for abused woman and an overhaul of the bail system are needed to prevent domestic violence tragedies such as the murder-suicide of Gillian and Ralph Hadley, a coroner's inquest jury has concluded.

After dissecting three months of evidence, the jury of three women and two men Friday made 58 recommendations intended to protect women like Mrs. Hadley, a Pickering mother of three killed by her estranged husband June 20, 2000.

Domestic violence is a unique and often preventable crime, court heard.

"Domestic violence... is different from other crimes in two ways: the likelihood of repeat violence is common and at most times predictable, (and) the victim is known in advance," the jurors said in an opening statement.

"With this knowledge society has an opportunity to use its expertise, resources and updated technologies to prevent this type of crime with the ultimate goal of a safer environment and the saving of lives."

The jurors also offered their condolences to the families and friends of Mr. and Mrs. Hadley and paid tribute to the neighbours who put their lives on the line in a desperate bid to rescue Mrs. Hadley the morning of her murder.

The recommendations address areas such as the courts, police, Crown attorneys, social services, co-ordination of community services and education.

They include funding for "independent trained advocates" for abused women, increased social assistance as well as permanent and "second-stage" subsidized housing for women fleeing violence.

"While it is unfair the complainant should have to move in order to achieve this separation (from abusers), this is often the only practical way.

"It is important there be suitable safe temporary accommodation immediately available as well as long-term assistance in the form of subsidized housing. The present long wait for housing is unacceptable," the jury said.

Nine of the 58 recommendations directly deal with the bail system. Among the most dramatic, the jury called for amendments to the Criminal Code to require a 'reverse onus' hearing in all cases involving domestic violence. Under the current system the Crown must show why a person should not be released, except in cases where an accused is charged with breaching a court order.

The jury urged automatic detention of anyone who breaches bail terms.

The three-month inquest examined the roles of Durham Region police, courts, social services, family members and co-workers in the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Hadley in the days, months and years leading up to the murder-suicide.

Mr. Hadley, a 34-year-old postal worker, was under strict bail conditions to stay away from Mrs. Hadley when he broke into the matrimonial home on Hillcrest Road and surprised his estranged wife on the day of the murder.

Mrs. Hadley ran into the street naked but was dragged back inside by Mr. Hadley. Neighbours alerted by her screams went to the door and tried pulling her from her husband's grasp but were forced to retreat when Mr. Hadley pulled a small handgun from his pocket.

The door slammed shut. Moments later, as a police officer approached the house, gunshots were heard.

Mrs. Hadley was killed in the front foyer with a single gunshot to the head. Mr. Hadley then turned the gun on himself in the bedroom.

At the time, Mr. Hadley was under court order to stay away from Mrs. Hadley. He was charged Jan. 7, 2000 with assaulting Mrs. Hadley and breach of recognizance (a peace bond) and released on a police undertaking.

One month later, he was charged with criminal harassment, breach of recognizance and breach of undertaking, the inquest was told.

A reverse-onus hearing was held Feb. 28, 2000 and Mr. Hadley was released on $5,000 bail with strict conditions to remain away from Mrs. Hadley and out of Pickering. He continually breached his bail, court heard.

Eileen Morrow, co-ordinator of the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAIT), said the jury recognized the urgent need for "basic supports" like social housing and assistance for abused women.

"Gillian Hadley was on the priority list for abused woman and was still facing a year-long waiting list for subsidized low-income housing, and as a result she was there when Ralph Hadley came to kill her," Ms. Morrow said.

"What we need is this Province to recognize these social supports are necessary and that the housing has to be there to save women's lives."

OAIT had strongly urged the recommendations dealing with bail.

"Reverse-onus should apply in all domestic violence cases, and when there is a breach of a bail order and the abuser is not prepared to obey the law, he should be detained. If that had happened in this case we may very well have seen a different result," Ms. Morrow said.

In an interview, Janet Ecker, MPP for Pickering-Ajax-Uxbridge, said the government has shelled out new money for women's shelters and other initiatives aimed at protecting women, but conceded more must be done. Since the murder-suicide, the Province has committed funding for a 25-bed women's shelter in West Durham and 15 new shelter beds in Oshawa and Bowmanville as part of a provincewide expansion, Ms. Ecker said.

"I think there is certainly a commitment to do what we can... We have already taken a lot of steps and we are prepared to do more," she said. Al O'Marra, coroner's counsel, said the thrust of the recommendations is "the focus of change isn't just within the justice system... If there is a solution to the problem of domestic violence it requires a co-ordinated approach of community services and justice services."

The jury also called for more domestic-violence training for police recruits and urged the Attorney General to review how cases are handled to reduce delays in bringing domestic cases to trial from the bail hearing stage. Jurors also called for "local domestic violence co-ordinating committees" in every community to co-ordinate services for victims, and creation by the Province of a committee to oversee implementation of the recommendations, as well as those made four years ago by a jury at an inquest into the 1996 murder of Arlene May by abusive boyfriend Randy Iles.