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February 9, 2002

Inquest jury calls for tough bail conditions

Hadley murder-suicide: Domestic violence activists worry about implementation

Gavin Mackenzie
National Post, with files from the Canadian Press

The jury at an inquest into the brutal murder of an Ontario mother by her husband made sweeping recommendations yesterday aimed at protecting women in violent relationships.

The coroner's jury examining the shooting death of Gillian Hadley, 35, by her 34-year-old husband, Ralph, recommended immediate increased funding of social services for abused women, tough new bail conditions for abusive partners and increased training for lawyers and police in dealing with domestic violence cases.

Ms. Hadley was shot in the head by her estranged husband in the hallway of the couple's former Pickering, Ont., residence in June, 2000, after she was chased into the street naked and clutching her child.

Mr. Hadley took his own life shortly afterward in their former bedroom.

At the time of the murder-suicide, Mr. Hadley was facing charges for assaulting Ms. Hadley and was free on bail but forbidden from having contact with his wife or possessing a firearm.

The inquest jury made 58 recommendations targeted at bringing about change in the way the judicial system as well as the federal and provincial governments deal with spousal abuse.

"Domestic violence is a crime that 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," said Dr. Bonita Porter, the deputy chief coroner, in the jury's verdict.

"With this knowledge, society has an opportunity to use its expertise, resources and updated technologies to prevent this type of crime."

The jury wants an Ontario government committee, including women's and children's advocates, established to ensure the recommendations are implemented, along with those from a similar inquest three years earlier.

Among the jury's seven pages of recommendations are the following:

- Increased federal and provincial spending on temporary and short-term subsidized housing;

- Increased domestic abuse- training at the Ontario Police College leading to the graduation of at least one domestic violence investigator per class;

- An end to the police practice of requiring a complainant to secure statements from witnesses and others and to gather evidence;

- Denying bail when a complainant can demonstrate their safety would be jeopardized if an accused person is released;

Geri Sanson, a lawyer representing an association of emergency shelters which presented evidence at the inquest, applauded the recommendations.

"The jury has come up with some incredibly thoughtful and meaning ideas," she said.

"They recognized the importance of a two-staged approach. You need both safety for the woman and her children as well as accountability for the accused and the system dealing with the accused."

Ms. Sanson said government lawyers urged the jury to avoid recommendations that would cost too much money.

Tom Marshall, the lawyer representing Ontario's attorney general at the inquest, admitted not all the recommendations are likely to be implemented by the province.

"There are some, from a cost perspective, that will be more easily managed than the other ones," he said.

"I expect the government will take these matters very seriously; I have no doubt about that."

Three years ago an inquiry into the murder of another Ontario woman Arlene May by her estranged partner made hundreds of recommendations. Many of them have not been implemented and the jurors asked that the Ontario government to develop a five-year plan to initiate both inquest's recommendations.

Pamela Cross, a co-ordinator at the Ontario Women's Justice Network, said the jury's recommendations are "excellent" but considering the government's track record she thinks the ideas might fall upon deaf ears.

"My enthusiasm is somewhat tempered," she said. "Here we are almost four years later and virtually none of those recommendations [from Ms. May's inquest] have been implemented."

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