Toronto Star

Feb. 8, 04:20 EDT

Hadley jury urges action on domestic violence

Tougher bail conditions, subsidized housing among inquest recommendations

By James McCarten
Canadian Press
Toronto Star

RALPH AND GILLIAN: The couple married in 1997. A strange note gives clues to Hadley's attack on his estranges(sic) wife.

An inquest into the tragic murder of a young Pickering mother urged sweeping changes today to the way police, courts and a thrifty provincial government protect women from violent men.

Tough new bail conditions, better training for lawyers and investigators and more money for cash-strapped social services were among 58 ideas for change the five-member jury wants to make the legacy of Gillian Hadley.

Hadley, 35, was shot in the head in June 2000 by her estranged husband Ralph after a struggle on the front lawn of the former couple's home in Pickering, a suburban community east of Toronto.

At the time, Ralph Hadley - who took his own life shortly afterward in what had been the couple's bedroom - was facing charges of assault; he was free on bail but forbidden from having contact with his wife.

"The size of the tragedy is really beyond what we're able to see from day to day," said John Wallace, a neighbour who witnessed the final moments of Gillian Hadley's life.

"I saw a lady fight for her life that day; I heard her groan when she was dragged back into the house. She knew it was all over. I will remember that day for the rest of my life."

Among the recommendations:

- An Ontario government committee, including women's and children's advocates, to ensure the recommendations are implemented, along with those from a similar inquest three years earlier;

- An immediate increase in federal and Ontario funding for affordable transitional housing and an increase in social assistance for women fleeing domestic abuse;

- Forty hours of special Ontario Police College training to establish at least one "domestic violence investigator" in every graduating 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, and requiring an accused to prove he's no danger in order to get bail;

- Holding an accused in custody until trial, no questions asked, if original bail conditions are violated;

- Broadening and streamlining counselling programs for men dealing with family breakups.

During the last days of the inquest, government lawyers urged the jury to avoid recommendations that would cost too much, said Geri Sanson, a lawyer for an association of emergency shelters in Ontario.

"Well, the jury has made it clear to them that what's needed is a whole lot more than what this government is prepared to do," Sanson said.

"If this government doesn't do it, they will be accountable to the women and children of this province."

In its opening statement, the jury implied that Hadley's death, like most cases of domestic violence, was a crime that could have been easily prevented.

"The likelihood of repeat violence is common and at most times predictable and the victim is known in advance," deputy chief coroner Dr. Bonita Porter said as she read 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 Hadley inquest came three years after another panel made hundreds of recommendations following the death of Arlene May, another Ontario woman, at the hands of her estranged partner Randy Iles.

Tom Marshall, who represented Ontario's attorney general at the inquest and urged the jury to keep cost in mind, admitted not all the ideas are likely to pass muster with the cost-conscious province.

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

The Ontario government is committed to the rights of victims, he added; the province was the first in Canada to establish a victims' services division to help keep them safe and get their lives back together.

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

Meanwhile, Wallace's personal memory of the Hadley tragedy has left him with a personal mission to talk about it in the hope people will better understand the dangers of domestic abuse.

"I can't do anything to bring Gillian back, or undo Ralph's death," he said.

"What I can do is learn from it and take steps that are within my control, and try to change what I can change."

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