In providing an update on the domestic violence action plan announced Jan. 18, Solicitor General Kash Heed has announced an additional $250,000 that will fund new training for police, prosecutors and other service providers, as well as grants to agencies that help victims.
The training will bring these professionals together, for the first time, for training focused on familiarizing them with the use of standardized risk- assessment guidelines, thereby supporting greater collaboration. The guidelines will help them to identify whether individuals accused of domestic violence should be behind bars or can be safely released on strict bail conditions.
"Based on my experience as a police officer who has handled domestic violence calls, as well as what I learned during my graduate studies in criminology, I have no doubt that moving to a standard risk assessment tool across the justice system will have a significant impact on the safety of those at risk," said Heed.
The risk-assessment guidelines look at 10 common, recognized factors related to a perpetrator, including whether their history includes relationship problems, serious physical and sexual violence, other criminal involvement, substance abuse, and employment or financial problems.
For police, the training will supplement mandatory, ongoing, web-based training that more than 1,700 officers have completed to date. The curriculum includes advanced training for senior police investigators who work exclusively on domestic violence files.
The new money announced today, which will come from civil forfeiture proceeds, will also fund grants to agencies that provide direct domestic violence counselling, referral and other services. Eligibility criteria and other grant application details will be available soon. This funding is over and above $16.9 million the Province currently invests in violence-against-women programs, $32 million that supports transition houses and $5 million that helps abused women overcome barriers to employment.
The solicitor general also provided an update on the work of a cross- government task force charged on Jan. 18 with developing a comprehensive, integrated action plan to address domestic violence. In doing so, Heed acknowledged task force members from a number of ministries, including his own, who are focused on one common interest: enhancing and integrating how professionals respond to incidents to better serve families, women and children. The action plan is government's response to recommendations from the Lee/Park coroner's inquest and the Representative for Children and Youth's report on the death of Christian Lee.
The plan focuses on greater integration, co ordination, collaboration and training among service providers. Its implementation will be supported by consultation with key community groups that provide domestic violence counselling and referral services. To wrap up those consultations by June and ensure the aggressive delivery dates in the action plan are met, a new secretariat has been established with the sole purpose and mandate of driving the action plan to completion. An action plan update can be found at www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/victim_services/
Beyond activities related to the action plan, a special domestic violence death review panel convened March 9-11 to examine 11 domestic violence cases that occurred in B.C. between 1995 and 2009. The expert panel's goal is to provide advice to prevent similar, future deaths. Its final report will be released May 14, 2010.