A new specialty court program in Halifax will support healthier relationships and help protect survivors of domestic violence and their families from future abuse.
The province’s second domestic violence court program officially opened Feb. 28, at the Provincial Court on Spring Garden Road.
Judge Amy Sakalauskas of the provincial court will preside over the court which will sit one day a week. The first cases will be heard next week.
Nova Scotia’s first Domestic Violence Court Program opened in Sydney in 2012. It handles about 300 cases per year. Both courts offer earlier intervention through programs for individuals who commit abuse, to help them change their behaviour and prevent future violence.
“Domestic violence has touched far too many lives and we know that women and their children are the primary victims,” said Kelly Regan, minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, on behalf of Justice Minister Mark Furey. “”The court program will focus on supporting survivors right away.
“”Building on what we learned from the program in Sydney, and expanding it to Halifax Regional Municipality, will help us intervene earlier, making our communities safer.”
These programs represent a different way to address intimate partner violence. Unlike a traditional court, which is adversarial, the Domestic Violence Court Program is more therapeutic, using a co-ordinated community response that quickly connects family members to services and supports where they live.
The accused person must also accept responsibility for their actions and commit to participate.
“A significant part of this program involves monitoring the progress of offenders and supporting that person, as well as the victim and their loved ones, throughout recovery,” said Chief Judge of the provincial and family courts, Pamela Williams.
“We rely on organizations working in the community for that ongoing support, which is why it was so important to have those groups at the table when we developed the program. This is truly a collaborative and more holistic approach to dealing with family violence.”
More than 50 representatives from 25 local community organizations and various government departments helped the Department of Justice with the planning and development of programs and supports for families who will use the court.
“We are very excited to see Nova Scotia’s domestic violence court become a reality in the Halifax area.” said Heather Byrne, executive director of Alice Housing. “We look forward to seeing how this court program will help Alice Housing clients and others who have experienced domestic violence stay safe and enable their voices to be heard.”
“This new court is an excellent example of community, government and the judiciary working together to make meaningful change,” said Wendy Keen, executive director of New Start Counselling. “This has truly been a very honest and open engagement that is focused on creating a respectful, just and caring response to people affected by domestic violence.”
For more information on the court, visit http://www.courts.ns.ca/Provincial_Court/NSPC_domestic_violence_court.htm