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It is well-known that many cases of violence against spouses or partners go unreported by victims, and the offenders regularly go unpunished. However, charges can be laid by police in Ontario without the cooperation of victims if the authorities have a reasonable suspicion that a domestic assault occurred. This is known as the “mandatory charging policy,” and such a case recently came to light in Kingston.
During the early hours of July 19, 2016, witnesses reported seeing a couple engaged in a heated argument as they walked across a parking lot in the northeast area of the city. The female victim attempted to walk away from her male partner, at which point, according to the witnesses, he grabbed her by the ponytail, dragged her to the ground and began to strike her about the head. The witnesses called the Kingston police, but the couple walked off together before police arrived.
The victim and her alleged assailant were found together by police just a few blocks away, apparently in an embrace. Remarkably, despite obvious trauma to her head, the victim claimed no physical assault actually happened and that only harsh words were exchanged between the two. The officers were not persuaded, and, based on the witnesses’ statements and the physical evidence, they arrested the male suspect.
In the end, the suspect was charged with a single count of domestic assault and held at police headquarters. A bail hearing was scheduled for later that same day, and witness statements were collected. The victim did eventually agree to give a statement of her own to police, and she filled out a domestic violence report to go along with pictures of her injuries.
Because many victims of domestic violence, both male and female, will not come forward to the authorities for any number of reasons, the Ontario law exists that allows authorities to file charges without victim complaints. While this law protects many, it can also lead to innocent individuals facing charges. When this occurs, those individuals have the right to seek defence counsel in order to combat the charges they face.