Domestic violence and assault share many similarities in injuries and actions. Ontario courts, however, do not treat them the same way. Domestic assaults, though not technically classified as a separate offence, are treated as a serious aggravating factor and may even be treated by a separate court system.
Ontario’s Domestic Violence Court (DVC) is a program designed to handle domestic violence, simplifying the prosecution of cases. It recognizes that there a different set of needs exist within domestic matters that require a separate approach.
The DVC may use an integrated system, allowing a single Judge to rule over matters where family law and criminal law overlap. As well, this system offers greater support to victims, increasing offender responsibility and providing early intervention.
More Severe Sentencing for Domestic Violence
Domestic violence may be treated as an aggravating factor in assault offences, which increases the severity of sentencing. It may also be tried as Intimate Partner Violence which, unlike domestic assault, is classified under the Criminal Code.
Intimate partner violence classifies can classify intimate relationships under a broad umbrella ranging from dating to marriage, including both current and past relationships. Intimate partner violence may involve the use of multiple types of force, or threats of force, including:
- Criminal Harassment
Even before the trial, the domestic nature of the offence can come into effect. It adds extra consideration to bail hearings. There exists a higher risk of being denied bail if there appears to be potential for psychological, physical or emotional distress to the victims should the accused be released back into the home. If granted bail, conditions may be stricter and are likely to include a non-communicate order.
If convicted, high-risk offenders are more severely impacted. They will have their case referred to the High-Risk Offender National Flagging System, and the Prosecution may submit a Dangerous/Long-term Offender Application. This process identifies the offender as a violent offender with a high risk of re-offending. This can result in restrictions on personal freedoms and act as an aggravating factor in future offences.
Additional counselling programs, such as the Partner Assault Program, are likely to be included if receiving probation.
Why Domestic Assault is More Serious Than Assault
Domestic assault is viewed as so much more serious than assault because of the level of impact on the victim. Research has found that domestic violence has greater and longer-lasting effects than assault. These include anxiety, depression, emotional distress, eating and sleeping disorders, and even suicide. Depending on the circumstances, individual, and intervention these effects can manifest over weeks, months, or years.
As well, domestic violence disproportionately affects specific segments of the population. Women, children, and impoverished are victimized significantly more than the general public. More severe handling of offences is intended to protect marginalized individuals.
In a common assault, a single instance is more likely to be reported. With domestic violence, however, the offence is usually part of a longer pattern. It can go on for years behind closed doors, in the safety of the victim’s own home. Victims often stay to keep the family together, because of financial considerations, or the fear that leaving or reporting the violence will make their situation worse.
Toronto Assault Lawyer
If you or a loved one are facing assault charges in Toronto, a criminal defence lawyer is your best option. William Jaksa is an experienced criminal lawyer who understands that you are more than your charges. He will help you understand your charges, your options, and the potential outcomes.
Contact William Jaksa today for a consultation.