Toronto Star

Feb. 9, 10:05 EDT

Tighter bail, new shelters urged by Hadley jurors

Inquest offers 58 sweeping recommendations

By Peter Small
Toronto Star

MURDER-SUICIDE: Ralph and Gillian Hadley's marriage was overshadowed by violence.

The federal and provincial governments must toughen bail laws and increase funding for subsidized housing so abused women don't have to fear for their lives when they flee their partners, the inquest jury into the murder-suicide of Ralph and Gillian Hadley has recommended.

"Domestic violence is a crime that is different from other crimes in two ways," the jury said in its written opening statement yesterday. "The likelihood of repeat violence is common and at most times predictable, (and) the victim is known in advance."

The jury urged that any accused abuser who breaches previous bail conditions be automatically put in jail pending trial. And no one should get bail if his partner can show the court that her safety is in jeopardy.

These are among the 58 sweeping recommendations by the three women and two men examining the June 20, 2000, shooting of Gillian Hadley, 35, by her estranged husband and his subsequent suicide. Inquest jury recommendations have no force in law but often greatly influence government policy.

On Feb. 28, 2000, Ralph Hadley, 34, had been granted bail on charges of criminally harassing the mother of three even though he had breached a previous peace bond and a formal undertaking to a police officer that he not contact Gillian.

Yesterday, the jury urged that the Criminal Code be amended so that crown attorneys always oppose bail for accused abusers, something which is now discretionary.

"I was actually thrilled with the bail recommendations," said Eileen Morrow, co-ordinator for the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, representing 66 women's shelters.

"The court needs to recognize that this is serious; it's serious from the very first moment the abuser enters the court."

For all abused women including the 75 per cent who never come into contact with the justice system the jury made a number of recommendations, including that the province fund advocates who are independent of government to fight for victims' interests.

And to make sure an abused woman has a place to go to escape her partner, the jury asked that the federal and provincial governments immediately provide new money for subsidized housing and second-stage units. In second-stage housing, abused women and their children can stay for up to a year and receive special services. There are no such units in Durham Region.

And for the many abused women forced on to welfare, the jury recommended that the province adjust payments to reflect the actual costs of living in their local communities. The government should also ensure they are given expedited service when they apply for welfare, the jury said.

John Wallace, a neighbour who struggled unsuccessfully to get Ralph to let go of Gillian at the front door of her Hillcrest Rd. bungalow, said he was heartened by the recommendations, but added that it's up to citizens to press governments for action and to personally intervene when they see troubled relationships.

"The size of the tragedy is really beyond what we're able to see from day to day," he said. "I saw a lady fight for her life that day and I heard her groan when she was dragged back in the house. She knew it was all over. I'll remember that day for the rest of my life."

Christina and Gerald Hadley, Ralph's parents, attended yesterday, but left without speaking to the media. Al O'Marra, counsel for presiding coroner Dr. Bonita Porter, said they were "saddened by the circumstances but pleased that the recommendations were as broad as they were."

The jury suggested that the housing allowance for women on welfare fleeing abusive relationships be raised so they can afford market rents in locales where there isn't enough social housing. And it urged the province to provide travel allowances to and from school for the children of abused women so they don't avoid moving to a safer home over concerns about disrupted educations.

It also urged that they receive larger moving allowances than now provided if they have to relocate. Moreover, abused women should be exempt from being forced on to workfare for six months, the jury added. "This is the first time a process has recognized the need for basic social supports in saving women's lives and not just emergency services like our shelter system," Morrow said.

Gillian Hadley, who was killed in her own Pickering home, was on a top priority list for social housing but there was no way she could have received a unit before she was murdered, the inquest heard.

"So as a result she was there when Ralph came to kill her," Morrow said. Neither was there a women's shelter near enough or able to accommodate her disabled 6-year-old son, Mikey.

The jury recommended that women's shelters and other community-based anti-violence services be "appropriately funded." Tom Marshall, the senior lawyer representing the attorney-general's ministry, said he was impressed by the jury's work and that the government will review the recommendations.

"Some, from a cost perspective, will be more easily managed than some of the other ones," but all will be viewed as significant, he said. Ralph Hadley slapped his wife and bashed her head against a wall in January, 2000, after he caught her in bed with another man.

He was charged with assault and released by a police officer after he agreed to several conditions that he later ignored, especially that he have no contact with Gillian. The jury urged yesterday that police never again release suspected domestic abusers on the strength of such undertakings.

The jury also recommended that police establish a system to notify all victims of the date of the accused person's bail hearings. In addition, the province should develop a specialized domestic violence bail program in each court jurisdiction that would include a specially trained police officer and crown attorney.

Ralph Hadley received two types of counselling, but did not join provincially funded group sessions designed for abusers. Only people pleading guilty or who are convicted of domestic violence crimes are eligible for these highly regarded 16-week programs. The jury urged that the province allow accused abusers to enter such programs voluntarily and that the number of sessions be increased to 52 weeks.

The inquest heard that many agencies get bits and pieces of information about an abuser, but privacy laws prevent them from comparing notes that would help them spot dangerous men before it's too late. The jury recommended that the province review privacy laws to permit disclosure where an agency is dealing with a spousal abuse victim.

The jury also recommended that Ontario's coroner establish a Domestic Violence Death Review Committee of experts to focus on suspicious deaths in a domestic violence context.

And to make sure the inquest findings don't just gather dust, the jury asked that a committee be funded indefinitely to oversee the implementation, not only of their recommendations, but also those of the 1998 inquest into the murder-suicide of Arlene May and Randy Iles. Many of the May-Iles recommendations, and those of a subsequent committee that reviewed them, have not been fully implemented, the inquest heard.

But coroner's counsel O'Marra said that much has been done to implement the May-Iles recommendations. "But clearly, more needs to be done, and I think the inquest and the jury recommendations speak to that," he said.

Paraphrasing Peter Jaffe, a leading domestic violence expert who testified, O'Marra said: "It's a thousand mile march and we've gone perhaps only a few miles down the road."

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