‘It’s About Saving Lives’: Responding to Homicide Forum
Brisbane, Australia, April 27, 2017
This forum was co-organized and co-hosted by the CSSLRV and the Violence Research and Prevention Program, Griffith Criminology Institute. Funding was provided by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Connection grant as well as the University of Guelph and Griffith University.
In the past decade, there has been much international discussion about appropriate criminal justice responses to homicide in its various forms. Similar to discussions about punishments and prevention of violence more generally, knowledge continues to be significantly hampered by the continued absence of systematic court data. This dearth of data means that researchers are not often able to link victim, accused/offender, or case characteristics to the punishments imposed. Without such data, it is difficult for community partners and government policymakers to know what is actually happening in the criminal justice system on the ground. While some progress has been witnessed in the United States, it is argued that “glaring gaps” in knowledge still exist. Elsewhere, pockets of such data exist in some, but primarily smaller and/or single jurisdictions (e.g. the Netherlands; Ontario, Canada), but there continues to be limited data that allow for cross-sectional analyses of individual-level data on case outcomes let alone temporal or spatial examinations at the more macro-level. This is true for data that can provide quantifiable data on court outcomes as well as more qualitative data that can contribute to our understanding of how court actors weigh certain factors when making decisions. As such, there remain significant gaps in our knowledge in broad terms with respect to how particular victim, accused/offender, or case characteristics determine court outcomes locally and whether this varies by geography and/or over time.
More specifically, for example, we have little understanding of process issues (e.g. how do early decision-making stages impact later outcomes; are particular types of cases more likely to be resolved through guilty pleas) or more substantive questions (e.g. how does intoxication affect punishment; what types of mental illness are common among those deemed to be ‘not criminal’; how does gender and intimacy impact the construction of homicides by the courts). In part, this absence of data is the result of the time and resources it takes to collect such data, often requiring manually searching and coding case files to capture this detailed, but crucial, information. Perhaps more importantly, however, the dearth of data also stems from the ability of researchers to access data from those who hold and manage these records. This forum brought together approximately 60 stakeholders and researchers to discuss the potential benefits and challenges of increasing collaborations to enhance data collection capabilities in homicide research. A policy position paper is in development.
Guelph-Griffith International Graduate Student Research Exchange
Griffith University, Mt. Gravatt Campus, Queensland, April 26, 2017
The exchange was co-organized and co-hosted by the CSSLRV and the Violence Research and Prevention Program, Griffith Criminology Institute. Funding was provided by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Connection grant as well as the University of Guelph and Griffith University.
The purpose of the exchange was to facilitate a mentoring event for emerging Australian and Canadian scholars in violence prevention. Focusing on vulnerable and/or marginalized populations and communities, presentations featured new and developing research. The exchange facilitated networking and collaboration to support the production of international and comparative evidence-based knowledge. Canadian presentations featured research that was generated by the SSHRC-funded Geography of Justice project, a five-year research agenda focusing on access to justice for victims and perpetrators of violence.
International Domestic Violence Death Review Committee Roundtable
Brisbane, Queensland, April 28, 2017
The roundtable was co-organized and co-hosted by the CSSLRV and the Violence Research and Prevention Program, Griffith Criminology Institute. Funding was provided by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Connection grant as well as the University of Guelph and Griffith University.
Domestic violence death review teams have existed since the early 1990s in North America; however, a comprehensive understanding of their varying procedures, practices and outcomes is lacking (Bugeja et al. 2015). In particular, until recently, little was known about the frequency, type and topical content of recommendations that arise out of these reviews beyond a recent and preliminary examination undertaken in one Canadian jurisdiction (Dawson 2014) and a larger international study of recommendations arising out of reviews in five countries which is currently underway (Dawson 2016). This research is important because, only when we understand what is being recommended, can we begin to assess whether improvements have been made as a result. However, a key knowledge gap remains – what is the rate of uptake of recommendations and, if implemented, what has been the impact of recommendations for the lives of those they were meant to help (Dawson 2017).
This gap in knowledge exists despite the fact that committee recommendations represent one of the most concrete outcomes of these initiatives and recommendation implementation is a necessity if improvements in system and sector responses to intimate partner and domestic violence are to occur. It brought brought together community organizations, government, and academics from Australia, Canada and New Zealand to discuss the development of a research agenda that can contribute to our understanding of the impact of these initiatives to date. Emphasis was given to identifying ways of translating research and knowledge into effective policy and practice responses to improve women’s safety and to help other jurisdictions implement and monitor the success of similar initiatives. A grant application is in development.
Risk Assessment, Risk Management, and Safety Planning Knowledge Exchange
October 17-19, 2012
The purpose of this knowledge exchange was is to bring together representatives from all provinces and territories across Canada to discuss challenges and to share best practices around safety planning, risk assessment, and risk management for domestic violence cases with some consideration to child abuse and elder abuse cases. The knowledge exchange addressed challenges around: the lack of a common vocabulary within risk assessment tools and processes; the difficulty in communicating with other agencies that use different risk assessment tools; and obstacles to sharing information and collaboration (e.g., confidentiality) among stakeholders. The knowledge exchange also provided a forum for representatives in the area of safety planning and risk assessment/management to share best practices in their local communities and brainstorm potential training opportunities and dissemination strategies of research and education. Over the two-day national event, over 80 academics and community experts came together to discuss gaps in services around safety planning and assessing and managing risk, best practices from communities across the country, and potential training and dissemination of information strategies. Participants included shelter workers, police, court representatives, victim services; PAR agencies, child protection services and many others who work with victims of violence from all provinces and territories. Some main objectives were to have professionals and systems learn to communicate and coordinate with one another to reduce risk and end violence in general as well as develop training strategies that can be used with various systems and agencies across the country. The knowledge exchange was funded by the Department of Justice Canada and co-hosted by the Centre for Social and Legal Responses to Violence and the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children.
Lessons Learned from Domestic Violence Tragedies: Emerging Research, Policies & Practices to Prevent Domestic Homicides
October 24-25, 2010
The think-tank brought together 39 practitioners, researchers, and government officials representing all provinces and territories in Canada. It was co-hosted by the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children, University of Western Ontario, and the Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence, University of Guelph. The purpose of the think tank was to discuss domestic violence and homicide prevention. Several emerging issues around domestic homicide and domestic violence prevention were identified. Forming effective domestic violence death review committees, conducting risk assessments, managing risk, engaging the family court, working with vulnerable populations, and enhancing the role of the workplace in addressing domestic homicide prevention were highlighted as critical issues that need to be addressed. These issues present many challenges across Canada but various provinces and helping systems have implemented promising practices that should be shared on a broader basis. The think-tank participants recommended implementing the following plan to build on the current knowledge in the field and to reduce deaths from domestic violence on a national basis.
Documenting Resources for Victims and Survivors of Violence in Canada
November 5-6, 2009
This workshop was organized and hosted by the Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence, University of Guelph, to discuss the feasibility of systematically documenting resources available to victims and survivors of violence in Canada. The workshop was held in Guelph, Ontario on November 5 and 6, 2010, sponsored by the Policy Centre for Victim Issues of the Department of Justice Canada; the Canadian Observatory on the Justice System Response to Intimate Partner Violence, University of New Brunswick; the Social and Legal Responses to Violence in Canada Research Unit and the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences, University of Guelph. Workshop participants represented various sectors including frontline service providers, community partners, researchers and policy makers from across Canada.
The workshop was structured around the exploration of the challenges and benefits to documenting resources for victims and survivors of violence in Canada. Background information was provided in a context paper written by the first author of this report and circulated among participants prior to the workshop. The overall objective of the workshop was to synthesize the current state of knowledge about what community-based, criminal justice, and other services and resources are currently available to victims/survivors of violence and to provide a starting point for research that can improve upon these current data systems. The long-term objective is the more systematic collection of consistent and reliable data that can, in turn, contribute to more informed public policy decisions about the distribution and allocation of victim/survivor resources in this country. The format of the workshop encompassed a mixture of individual and panel presentations with subsequent roundtable and full plenary discussions that focused on three broad questions: How do we define victim/survivor resources? What are our data gaps and needs with respect to these resources? What are appropriate measures of victim/survivor resources?
First Annual Canadian Conference on the Prevention of Domestic Homicides
June 14-16, 2009
Co-hosted by the Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence, the first annual Canadian conference on domestic homicide prevention was intended to enhance networking and partnerships amongst social science researchers, policy makers and practitioners (coroners, medical examiners, police, crown attorneys, child protection and anti-violence community agencies) in their review of domestic homicides across Canadian provinces and territories. The conference proceedings will focus on risk factors and systemic gaps in policies, training and resources that are related to domestic homicides. The ultimate goal of this work is to prevent domestic violence and save lives lost to these tragedies. Dr. Dawson and Dr. Neil Websdale, Director of the US National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative provided the keynote address entitled, An International Perspective on Domestic Homicide Reviews: From a Culture of Blame to Understanding & Prevention. Over the course of the three-day conference, a broad array of speakers presented on a variety of issues, including risk assessment, safety planning and risk management; profiling men who kill their partners, the role of the health care system in preventing femicide, and the traditional and cultural approach to prevention and education of women abuse in Aboriginal communities. Overall, the conference enhanced knowledge of risk factors and systemic policy gaps, highlighted training programs and resources, and facilitated networking and partnerships among key players in the field of domestic homicide.
Multi Disciplinary Perspectives on Preventing Domestic Homicides: A Canadian Think-Tank
October 20-21, 2008
The think-tank brought together social scientists, coroners, policy makers, social service/mental health professionals, police, and crown attorneys from five different Canadian provinces (British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick). The think-tank was funded by the Department of Justice Canada, the Ontario government (Attorney General, Ontario Women’s Directorate), University of New Brunswick and the University of Western Ontario (Research Western, The Faculty of Education). It was co-hosted by the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children, University of Western Ontario, and the Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence, University of Guelph. The think-tank was structured around the exploration of challenges and promising practices in reviewing domestic homicides. Background information was provided by the United States Fatality Review Project, Ontario’s Domestic Violence Death Review Annual Reports and a recent research paper on the domestic violence death review process.
The overall objective of the think-tank was to bring together multi-disciplinary perspectives from different Canadian provinces, representing various regions of the country, to share experiences in reviewing domestic homicides. The two senior authors of this paper are members of the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee, Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario, and had initiated the think-tank in response to the expressed interest in different provinces to examine the variety of methods and data collection in reviewing domestic homicides. The purpose of the think-tank was to discuss future practices and policies that provinces and communities can consider implementing to enhance death reviews and to expand the research to help prevent future domestic homicides. Specifically, the goal was to bring experts in the field of domestic violence and/or homicide together to discuss potential strategies for review and data collection in regards to domestic homicides.
Long-term objectives for the think-tank were: (1) To explore the feasibility of a national conference on this topic; (2) To develop common database containing information on domestic homicides across Canada beyond existing Statistics Canada reports; and (3) To discuss the funding possibilities that would support the enhancement of research and practice partnerships in this area. Research into domestic homicides has for the most part been fragmented, both in terms of the issues focused upon and in the locations in which research has been conducted with some areas in Canada and other countries receiving more attention than others. Notwithstanding the interconnections among research focus and region, there has been little opportunity for bringing insights together from various provinces that are facing the same issues when responding to domestic violence and homicide. The think-tank provided an excellent opportunity to bring researchers, government and community partners, and policy makers together to determine what is similar, what is different, what works, and what needs attention in such efforts. By documenting progress and identifying what needs to be done, the think-tank was intended to create a platform for future research and to contribute to the knowledge base for effective prevention and intervention in domestic homicides.