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April 6, 2009

The following statement was issued by the Honourable Tom Marshall, Minister of Justice and Attorney General. It was also read in the House of Assembly:

Family Violence Intervention Court Pilot Project Begins

On March 25, the Family Violence Intervention Court pilot project in St. Johnís commenced at Provincial Court with Judge Gregory Brown presiding. Based upon the principles of therapeutic jurisprudence, this court places an emphasis on safety for victims and accountability for the offender while addressing the root causes of family violence in our society. The court will sit every second Wednesday.

The intent of the Family Violence Intervention Court is to provide, in select cases, a timely, effective and co-ordinated response to family violence. With the implementation of this court we are taking a significant step forward in tackling the issues associated with violence in the home. A collaborative effort has been undertaken by various agencies including the Provincial Court, the Transition House Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, the police, prosecutors, Legal Aid along with Iris Kirby House and the John Howard Society to ensure the needs of victims and offenders are met.

When a charge of family violence is first brought to Provincial Court it will be identified for referral to the Family Violence Intervention Court. The accused individual will be given a court date, information about the court and, if the offender takes responsibility for their actions, will meet with a risk assessment officer to determine if eligibility requirements are met. If met, defense counsel will become engaged and a guilty plea will be submitted to the court. The judge will accept this plea but postpone sentencing until the completion of essential family-violence intervention. While intervention is ongoing, the accused will be on supervised bail and will periodically return to court to update the judge. Once completed the accused returns to court for sentencing.

This court is not about being soft on crime but about finding alternative measures to address family violence and its impacts. A team consisting of a bail supervisor, Child, Youth and Family Services social worker, Victim Services representative and a family violence counselor will be engaged throughout the process. Services will be available to those, including children, who have been impacted by the unfortunate occurrence of family violence.

In Budget 2009, through the Violence Prevention Initiative and the Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Newfoundland and Labrador Government supported the Family Violence Intervention Court with a total of $583,000. The court is a 12-month pilot project and an evaluation of the court will take place upon its completion. I look forward to watching the court grow and seeing the positive impact it has upon our community.

2009 04 06                                                       1:50 p.m.

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