I interviewed an active officer who spoke to various aspects of domestic violence. He provided a general outline of how domestic dispute matters are dealt with but wanted to reinforce that every case is unique and not all cases will be handled in the same manner due to their severity. The first part of his interview outlines the initial intake after a domestic violence call.
1. Why do you ask so many detailed questions?
Answer: The reason we have to get into technicalities and detailed questions is because it’s the provincial mandate and the procedure we have to follow. There is also a process of checks and balances. There are numerous checks and balances that the defence and prosecutor work through before proceeding with a trial. The prosecutor needs to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to the trial in the preliminary hearing.
Furthermore, police officers may be required to take the stand if the victim later chooses to not attend the trial, granted that it is a strong case. If the police officer is in court then the officer has to answer questions based on the statements provided by the victim. If the statements are found inconsistent, then the case can be thrown out. Thus, police officers try to ensure the case goes through, which is in the best interest of the victim.
Although the victim is not required to provide the police officer with details about the event, police officers are obligated to ask if the victim wants to provide a video or written statement. It is in the victim’s best interest to provide a statement for a consistent testimony throughout the matter.
2. What sort of questions do you have to ask?
Answer: Some of the generic questions officers ask victims include:
A. What happened today? The victim(s) gives a statement of what transpired that night.
Following this, police officers confirm the stories with each other.
B. Are you okay? Do you need any immediate medical attention?
These two questions are used in a particular sequence depending on the severity of the case. The questions that progress from this are tailored to each incident and based on the answers provided by each victim. Each case is handled differently and in a unique manner based on the answers received.
C. Has anyone else witnessed this?
D. Were there any drugs/medication/alcohol involved?
This question is asked of the abuser. Once again, the abuser is not obligated to answer these questions. Police officers shall lay charges if there is an allegation of a criminal offence in a domestic related incident or evidence to substantiate criminal charges. Police are mandated by the province to lay charges and have no discretion.
E. Who else is present in the residence? Any kids under 16 years of age?
These are important questions to ask as the presence of children under the age of sixteen can result in the involvement of the Children’s Aid Society.
3. What is the most important factor to lay a charge?
Answer: The most important factor is to have reasonable grounds. Reasonable grounds: a set of facts/circumstances which would satisfy an ordinary cautious and prudent person that there is reason to believe and which goes beyond mere suspicion. This means the arrest should be based on facts and circumstances that are prudent that the crime has transpired.
Part 2 – What about the children? To follow tomorrow.