Effective information sharing and collaboration across justice agencies and support services are key when it comes to protecting victims of gender-based and intimate partner violence, a coroner’s inquest heard Tuesday.
The inquest is examining the deaths of three women killed by their former partner in the Ottawa Valley on Sept. 22, 2015 — Carol Culleton, Nathalie Warmerdam and Anastasia Kuzyk — and considering ways to protect victims of intimate partner violence, particularly in rural communities.
Deepa Mattoo is a lawyer and executive director of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, which provides legal, counselling and cultural interpretation services for survivors of gender-based violence.
Mattoo told the inquest that there needs to be better information sharing among the numerous agencies and support services involved in gender-based and intimate partner violence cases in order to protect victims. This includes police, judges, probation offices, correctional officers, lawyers and community service providers.
“Each of these systems and agencies have valuable information on the survivors and perpetrators of gender-based violence that can indicate the potential for redress or further harm (posed by a perpetrator),” Mattoo said.
“However, in our experience with many survivors we work with, there are inconsistencies related to the practice of communication between these systems and agencies, resulting in a failure to implement effective and accurate risk assessment and safety planning strategies.”
Mattoo said effective information sharing among various agencies and services would reduce the “fragmentation of knowledge” that currently exists in the criminal justice system and contributes to confusion in many cases.
“In our experience, what we see is that court officials don’t have access to information regarding concurrent proceedings or even pre-existing orders among the same parties or different parties,” she said.
“The more information available to each court, (it) is less likely that there will be inconsistent orders.”
Sharing “relevant, timely, accurate and purposeful” information among agencies and services also provides a “fuller picture” of each case, which can lead to a more informed and complete safety plan for a victim, Mattoo added, especially as the level of risk that a perpetrator presents is evolving.
“Ongoing risk assessment or case management is really, really the key for making sure that the survivors actually remain safe,” she said.
Mattoo also urged a “multidisciplinary collaborative approach” among different agencies and support services in cases of gender-based and intimate partner violence so they can “jointly achieve an outcome that will not be accomplished by organization in one sector separately.”
She added that there is a need for a “user-friendly information sharing platform” that would allow for “timely disclosures” about cases to allow this collaboration to happen.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
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Information sharing of risks, needs key in intimate partner violence cases: inquest