Domestic Violence and COVID-19
Cases of domestic violence can happen in any family at any time. Domestic violence is the physical or sexual assault, or the threat thereof, in any family relationship: spousal, intimate partner, parent or child. The full impact of COVID-19 places additional and tremendous stresses on family relationships. These stressors include health and safety concerns, isolation and containment, financial and psychological stresses and increased alcohol consumption.
Once an allegation of domestic violence is reported to the police or RCMP or other authorities (teacher, social worker, doctor etc.), it is not up to the victim or the accused or any other family member to stop the legal process.
Domestic violence cases are appropriately treated very seriously in the criminal justice system. The police have designated units and resources assigned to domestic cases. The Prosecution has teams specializing in domestic violence cases. There are different charges or criminal code provisions that may apply – Assault, Sexual Assault, Threatening, Harassment, Weapons, Breaches, and Homicide.
For an individual accused of domestic assault or of family violence, a lawyer should be retained (at the earliest opportunity) to protect an individual’s legal interests and rights in the criminal justice system. An accused person must be informed of the steps in the prosecution, the burden of proof and the presumption of innocence. An individual must understand all his or her rights and options in terms of bail and defences and the various methods domestic violence cases can be resolved
A domestic violence victim may also consider retaining a lawyer to assist with the criminal justice system and the legal issues involved. For victims of domestic violence, there are a number of government and volunteer resources and support. However, accessing these resources is now more difficult given the restrictions on social distancing.
Our firm acts as counsel on a daily basis to individuals who are facing domestic assault charges and who are complainants and family members of domestic assault. We deal with the police and RCMP, Crown prosecutors, victims’ services and other government ministries as necessary. The fact is we are seeing more domestic violence cases in the current heightened circumstances of family pressures.
Every individual and family dynamic is different as is each case and set of circumstances. We are in the middle of a serious global health pandemic with one of its consequences being the stresses on family relationships. In cases where there are criminal charges or legal issues relating to domestic violence, an experienced lawyer should be retained early on to advise in confidence and to assist with the successful legal resolution of the domestic violence case.