Enhancing Safety: When Domestic Violence Cases are in Multiple Legal Systems
(Criminal, family, child protection)
A Family Law, Domestic Violence Perspective

Executive Summary

The purpose of this report is to document, from a family law perspective, best practice options when domestic violence cases are making their way through multiple proceedings (criminal, civil, family, and child protection). The intention is to identify practices that can promote the safety of family members, particularly children, while also ensuring fair, due process.

Research continues to document the legal system's failure to offer adequate support and protection to families, particularly to children, in domestic violence cases. Our legal systems were not designed with seamless, collaborative responses to domestic violence in mind. In fact, as a result of structural divisions that separate criminal, family and child protection matters, our legal systems sometimes work at cross purposes, wasting scarce therapeutic and community resources. Numerous researchers have cited court-system fragmentation as one of the leading causes of failure to protect adults and children. The result has been an undermining of public confidence in the administration of justice.

The author, Dr. Linda C. Neilson, a lawyer and socio-legal academic, has been conducting socio-legal research in the domestic violence and family law field for three decades, during the last ten years much of it in association with the National Judicial Institute.

Preparing materials for use in the legal system presents two major challenges. The first is the cross disciplinary challenge of translating comprehensive analysis of socio-legal and social-science domestic violence research into tools and principles that can be used fairly and equitably in a legal context, without creating bias. The second is systemic: the need to understand and address in a practical manner the complexities of a legal system that operates as an organic, evolving system composed of multiple, interlocking parts.

This report was written with educational and practical purposes in mind. Part 1 identifies the nature of the problem. Part 2 discusses terms. Part 3 offers law practitioners a quick reference overview of matters to consider when accepting a domestic violence case. Part 4 provides information and solutions relating to the collection and exchange of information across legal sectors. Part 5 explores problems occurring as a result of differing understandings of domestic violence among the legal sectors and explains how these differences affect the use and application of evidence. Part 6 introduces the reader to indicators of risk that domestic violence will continue, followed by Part 7 which focuses on indicators of the potential for lethal outcome; both explore how this information should be collected and shared across legal sectors. Part 8 examines evidence issues and procedural matters in interim proceedings at the intersection of criminal, family law, and child protection law. Part 9 focuses on cross-sector evidence issues during hearings, particularly the interpretation of evidence from the criminal law sector in a family law or child protection context, while Part 10 presents socio-legal information pertinent to best practices in the use of court-connected services. Part 11 offers concluding comments.

The manual is intended to support the work of practitioners in building professional networks across legal systems in order to promote the safety and welfare of Canadian families and children.

Part 1: The Nature of the Problem

1.1 Introduction

Socio-legal research demonstrates clearly the need to attend to systemic problems occurring within and between the legal systems. This report focuses on the intersection of criminal, family and child protection systems. Consequently, the report does not include discussion of: problems created by jurisdictional divisions in court authority over family law matters within provinces and territories;Footnote 1 the internal mechanics of family law and child protection processes; or best practice responses within family law and child protection systems per se. And notwithstanding the importance of the issues, the report does not focus on the assessment of child best interests in domestic violence family law contexts and excludes discussion of other important domestic violence issues such as: connections between domestic violence and international human rights; connections between domestic violence and immigration systems; connections between domestic violence and youth criminal justice. Although some of these issues may be mentioned in passing, the central focus of this report is a response to problems occurring at the intersection of criminal, child protection, and family law in a domestic violence context.

1.2 Social Context

Gender-based violence against women is identified worldwide as one of the world's most pressing social and human rights challenges.Footnote 2 The economic costs, estimated at between 1.5 and 15 billion in Canada, 5.8 to 8.1 billion dollars in the United States, between 9.9 and 15.6 billion dollars in Australia and 23 billion pounds annually in the United Kingdom,Footnote 3 are staggering. Yet even these figures do not tell the whole story. The figures do not reflect the cumulative, compounding, long-term institutional costs – educational; work-place related; medical and mental health, drug and alcohol therapeutic; legal (juvenile, criminal, child protection, courts and court-connected services) – when we fail to intervene early and effectively in domestic violence cases. Neurological and medical scientific research is now verifying decades of social science research. The findings are demonstrating that high levels of toxic stress in the home - for example resulting from domestic violence - can negatively affect a child's neurological development. These actual physical changes can affect not only the one child's life but the lives of the child's children and beyond.Footnote 4 The social costs are multiplying. We can ill afford not to take effective action.

1.3 Locating the Legal Systems Problem

On the one hand, Canada has improved its responses to domestic-violence in the criminal sector, for example in the creation of specialized domestic violence courts, in improvements to Criminal Code protections for children, and in enhancements to judicial authority in connection with monitoring and imposed therapy. On the other hand, Canada - with the exceptions in British ColumbiaFootnote 5 – which has implemented new family law legislation – and Ontario – which has recently implemented legislation to offer protection to domestic violence 'victims' in the workplaceFootnote 6 – is lagging behind other countries in the domestic violence field. The United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand have all undertaken significant reforms in the domestic violence field regarding child-centered, research-evidence-informed family law policy and legal system reforms.Footnote 7

Yet, while research-informed expertise on domestic violence has been available to policy makers, service providers, judges and lawyers, for decades, the expertise has not resulted in significant change in the legal system. The same recurring problems have been documented consistently and repeatedly in research studies across western legal jurisdictions (including Canada) for more than three decades.Footnote 8 The failure to act is rooted in two interlocking challenges: one disciplinary, the other systemic.

1.4 Confronting the Disciplinary and Systemic Challenges

Law and social sciences are distinct disciplines, in theory and in practice. While law is vested with responsibility to deliver justice in each and every individual case, social scientists and socio-legal researchers study and document social trends and human tendencies. As a result social science knowledge cannot be applied directly in a legal context. For example, social-science research demonstrates clearly that the majority of adults targeted by coercive domestic violence (see Part 5 for discussion of this term) are women. Nonetheless it is possible for men to be subjected to coercive domestic violence, in same sex relationships, and in, albeit less often, opposite sex relationships. If lawyers, judges and service providers were simply to apply social science research on gender and coercive domestic violence, the result would be injustice to individual men targeted by coercive violence. In the absence of disciplinary transformation from social science into law (legal principles and procedural tools), scientific information per se can do harm in individual cases. Lawyers and judges do not always make use of social science information, not because they are not aware of it but because they cannot simply apply it in legal negotiations or in court without risk of injustice. If scientific knowledge is to be made useful in a legal context, it must be translated into legal tools and practice principles. This constitutes a major challenge when writing best practice materials for the legal system in a domestic violence context.

The second challenge is systemic: the need to understand the legal system as it operates in practice. Legal systems - criminal, family, child protection - are composed of multiple, interlocking parts. Empirical research demonstrates domestic violence cases failing at the weakest links in legal systems - at the connections between court systems (civil, criminal, family, child protection) and within court systems at the connections among parts of court systems (for example at the connections among lawyers, experts, judges, mediators, assessors, and court-connected services). One of the reasons that legal responses to domestic violence cases failFootnote 9 is because our systems (criminal, family, civil, child protection, immigration) operate separately in pursuit of differing goals.

Despite that the legal system was not designed with seamless, coordinated responses to domestic violence in mind, it is not unusual for one particular family to be involved sequentially or simultaneously in two or more court systems (criminal, child protection, and family). Yet in a domestic violence context the priorities of criminal justice (due process, preservation of evidence, accountability, and public safety) do not always align well with either the welfare and safety priorities of the child protection system or with the family law system's focus on the best interests of the child, for example, maximizing contact with both parents. From the perspective of the particular family, the legal presumptions of innocence, of concern for child safety, of attempts to promote family reunification, and of maximizing the child's contact with both parents, as they operate in separate legal systems, may appear unintelligible and inconsistent.Footnote 10 Families are not only confronted with inconsistencies among legal systems, they must also grapple with a complex array of appointments with different sets of assessors, different sets of experts, and different sets of lawyers attached to the separate legal systems. Moreover, those various officials often have little understanding of how various parts of the legal system affect each other.

It is understandable that judges, lawyers, and other professionals who work in one legal system do not fully understand the operation of other legal systems. Yet, in the midst of this systemic complexity, how are families to know where to turn for help?Footnote 11 When legal systems and the services associated with them (mental health, drug and alcohol, domestic violence intervention, parenting and counseling programs) fail to operate in a coordinated fashion, safety nets fail and the risk of harm increases. Numerous reports cite court-system fragmentation as one of the primary causes of the failure of the legal system to protect targeted adults and children in domestic violence cases.Footnote 12

Thus if we are to address problems across court systems, we must employ a systems-based theoretical and methodological approach. In practical terms this requires an empirically informed understanding of how each component of the legal system - the judges, lawyers, the Crown, witnesses, children, mediators, intervention services - operate in practice in domestic violence cases. Then, in turn, we must explore how the components of each system affect the components of the other legal systems and how the connections (or lack thereof) among them affect process and outcome.

1.5 Outline of Problems Across Legal Systems

In order to overcome the problems occurring at the intersection of family, child protection, and criminal systems, there are some system-wide challenges, well-documented in the socio-legal research, that we must respond to, such as:

  • The non-disclosure of domestic and family violence
  • Inconsistent understandings of the nature of domestic violence across legal systems
  • Differences in the particulars of risk pertinent to each legal system and limited cross-sector understanding of those differences in each legal system
  • Differences in the application of legal rules relating to disclosure, privilege, privacy and confidentiality and how those differences affect the use of information in other legal contexts
  • Limited understandings of documented connections between coercive domestic violence and direct forms of child abuse as well as detrimental parenting practices
  • Distracting litigation tactics employed by perpetrators (dominant aggressors) such as excessive use of litigation to harass, or the filing multiple claims in various court systems (also termed 'procedural stalking' or 'paper abuse'Footnote 13)
  • Differences in legal onus, timelines, and evidence rules among the various systems
  • Limited understanding of the effects of decisions in one legal context on other legal proceedings
  • Limited coordination of court processes and court-connected services, resulting in duplication and inconsistent use of community services across systems

In addition to such system-wide challenges is the need to attend to overlapping family and criminal issues, such as:

  • Cultural 'blind spots' within and across legal and service sectors (for example, policies and practices that ignore forms of domestic violence associated with culture)
  • Complex family needs associated with domestic violence, such as drug and alcohol abuse and mental health issues
  • Settlement patterns in one legal context that affect other legal contexts
  • Connections between civil and criminal child abduction
  • 'Victim'Footnote 14 'recant' (Note: the terms 'victim', 'targeted parent', and 'survivor of domestic violence' are used interchangeably in this report. For discussion of controversies surrounding the term 'victim' see footnote 14.)
  • Orders and agreements made in different legal systems that are not complementary and that fail to serve a common purpose

While time and resource constraints may not allow comprehensive discussion of each and every one of these issues, the author hopes that this document will, at the very least, shed light on these matters.

Part 2: Terms

The terms "domestic violence" and "family violence" refer to a range of extremely complex phenomena. Creating a common understanding across legal sectors is challenging because of differences in terminology; differences in types of violence, particularly in connection to distinguishing dominant aggressor from 'victim'Footnote 15 violence; and differences in priority in connection with harm and safety.

The term 'family violence' is broader than and includes 'domestic violence' (also called 'intimate partner violence'). Family violence also includes 'sibling violence', 'parent-child violence', 'child-parent violence' and violence among members of extended families. Domestic violence cannot be separated entirely from other forms of 'family violence' for three reasons: 1) the empirically verified overlap between intimate-partner violence and other forms of violence within families, 2) the preferences for the term 'family violence' among many aboriginal peoples, and 3) the importance of responding to evolving, gendered forms of family violence associated with culture in complex, extended family structures. In the latter context, family members, such as sons, second spouses, brothers, or sisters, may act on behalf of the intimate partner or spouse in targeting and seeking to control the other intimate partner or spouse. Given that the third form of family violence resembles 'domestic violence', in pattern and in profile, it is included, for the purposes of this report, in the term 'domestic violence'. Other forms of family violence, such as sibling abuse and child abuse, are not included in the term 'domestic violence' as used in this report unless it is linked to abuse or violence directed against an intimate (or former intimate) partner.

Thus, while the term "domestic violence" normally refers to abuse and violence between current and former intimate partners, for the purposes of this report, the term will also include abuse and violence within the family by other family members when it targets or seeks to control an intimate partner on behalf of another intimate partner.

Basically, one can identify three broad categories of domestic violence: minor, isolated violence not associated with a pattern of coercion and control; resistance violence; and 'coercive', controlling, patterned violence. These categories are explained in part 5 below. The distinctions are important, because they have differing implications in the three legal systems.

The terms 'domestic violator' and 'perpetrator' are used interchangeably in this report as are the terms 'victim', 'targeted party' and 'survivor'. The first set of terms refers to the dominant intimate partner who had primary responsibility for the onset and pattern of domestic violence; the second set of terms refers to the intimate partner subjected to domestic violence.

Part 3: Accepting a Family-violence Case: Overview

3.1 Obtaining and Assessing Information About Domestic Violence

"Screening" refers to processes used to detect and identify the presence, type, frequency, pattern, timing, and severity of domestic and family violence. The ultimate purpose of screening is to match appropriate services, processes, and interventions to the type and level of abuse and violence.

"Risk assessment" (discussed in more detail in parts 6 and 7) refers to the collection and assessment of information pertinent to determining the level of risk that domestic and family violence will continue in the future.

Upon acceptance of a family law case: Given the high rates of domestic and family violence documented among those who separate and divorce, as well as problems associated with the transmission of information to lawyers and courts (discussed in Part 4), the use of tools to screen for the presence and particulars of domestic violence is recommended in all family law, including child protection, matters.

Detailed collection of information and analysis of the whole pattern of abuse and violence (rather than analysis of incidents) in the context of coercion, power and control is required for:

  • Accurate assessment of responsibility (in order to distinguish resistance violence from dominant aggressor violence)
  • Accurate assessment of the type of domestic violence
  • Accurate assessment of risk (child and adult)

For particulars, see:

  • Part 4 (on patterns of revealing and not revealing information in a domestic violence context)
  • Part 5 (on the need, in a family law context, to distinguish types of domestic violence; also the need to keep in mind differences in interpretation of domestic violence in the family and the criminal law systems)
  • Part 6 (on risk assessment and the exchange of information pertinent to risk)
  • Part 7 (on the potential for lethal outcome)

In connection with assessment of domestic violence, the best practice is for family lawyers to work together with domestic violence and cultural experts in each jurisdiction to collectively design and coordinate screening tools tailored for each social and cultural context. A number of domestic violence screening tools are identified here for preliminary reference:

  • Connie Beck and Chitra Raghavan (2010) "Intimate Partner Abuse Screening in Custody Mediation: The Importance of Assessing Coercive Control" in 48(3) Family Court Review 555-565; Robin Ballard, Amy Holzworth-Munroe, Amy Applegate and Connie Beck (2011) "Detecting intimate partner violence in family and divorce mediation: A randomized trial of intimate partner violence screening" 17(4) Psychology, Public Policy and Law 241-263. This domestic violence screening tool has been piloted and evaluated in the United States and Australia.
  • Michigan Supreme Court (2005) Domestic Violence and Child Abuse/Neglect Screening for Domestic Relations Mediation (Office of Dispute Resolution, State Court Administration Office)
  • Elizabeth Jollimore "Checklists: Best Practices for Representing Clients in Family Violence Cases" (Department of Justice) http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/pi/fcy-fea/lib-bib/tool-util/topic-theme/viol3.html
  • American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence "Tool for Attorneys to Screen for Domestic Violence" on line at http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/migrated/domviol/screeningtoolcdv.authcheckdam.pdf
  • D. Ellis & N. Stuckless (2006) "Domestic Violence, Dove, and Divorce Mediation" in Family Court Review 44(4): 658-671
  • Child Abuse Solutions Inc. Domestic violence Screening Tool for Mediators on line at http://www.childabusesolutions.com/page_10.html.Footnote 16

As discussed in Part 4 below, screening tools should be administered repeatedly in light of documented non-disclosure of domestic violence information and changing circumstances.

3.2 Considering Risk

If coercive domestic violence is identified (see 5.4.3 for discussion of this term), consider the level of risk (see Parts 6 and 7 below) and take action to ensure client and child safety.

It is important to take into account the effects of domestic violence on the ways in which information is revealed or concealed (see Part 4 below). Family and child protection lawyers should screen repeatedly throughout the litigation process for the presence of domestic violence and other forms of family violence, as well as for changes in risk. Separation, for example, is a well-documented time of elevated risk and danger. Risk can change rapidly in a domestic violence context (see Parts 6 and 7 below).

3.3 Possession of the Family Home and Personal Belongings

Is the client living separate and apart from the alleged perpetrator? Take into account status quo considerations as outlined in part 8.3 below, and discuss whether or not moving from the home is required in order to ensure safety. Has a restraining order (or in jurisdictions that have domestic violence prevention statutes, an order for civil protection) (see Part 8.2 below) been obtained? Is a civil protection order needed (see 8.2)? Consider the level of risk outlined in Parts 6 and 7. Is an order for exclusive possession of the marital home advisable? Can safety provisions offer adequate protection? Alternatively, direct the client to emergency housing; ensure access to safe forms of transportation.

When warranted, arrange for police to accompany the client to the home to remove personal belongings, paying particular attention, depending on the context, to passports, birth and marriage certificates, immigration papers, health and insurance cards, social insurance cards, legal documents, prescriptions and medications, devices to assist with disability, electronic sources of evidence (personal computers, cell phones), special toys and items of comfort for the children, pets that may be in danger (see part 5.8). Note that, in many jurisdictions, organizations that prevent cruelty to animals will house pets on an emergency basis in domestic violence cases.

3.4 Child Safety

Does the client (or domestic violence screening) indicate potential harm or danger to a child? Are protections needed? In a child protection context, consult with child protection authorities in order to consider whether or not a protection order (see part 8.1) would offer sufficient protection to enable the targeted adult and the child to remain in the family home.

Are the child protection authorities involved in the case? If so, obtain particulars and seek permission to remain in contact with child protection authorities in order to be kept informed of and to support the client's participation in child protection meetings and proceedings.

Consider an application for interim custody - with protective provisions to allow, when warranted, safe contact between the perpetrating parent and child(ren) pursuant to family law legislation (see part 8.3) or domestic violence prevention statutes (see part 8.2).

3.5 Referrals to Other Agencies and Services

Has the client claiming to have been subjected to domestic violence had an opportunity to consult a domestic violence expert or advocate and, in jurisdictions where such services are available, victim witness services? If possible, consider a referral to such services for adult and child safety planning.

Does the targeted adult qualify for victim compensation? If so, provide information and refer the client. For particulars of programs across Canada, readers may wish to refer to the Criminal Injuries Compensation in Canada website.

Is the client in need of domestic violence counseling (for targeted parents) or domestic violence intervention (for perpetrators)? (The names of domestic violence intervention programs for perpetrators, also called behaviour change programs, vary by jurisdiction.) Active participation and completion of such programs is often viewed favorably by courts and by child protection authorities. If the client is willing to participate, attempt to address with the client (and with child protection authorities if child protection is involved) practical problems such as the potential effects of participation on legal proceedings (criminal, family child protection), cost, accessibility, child-care, relief from work, and transportation; make the appropriate referral.

See Part 10 below regarding domestic violence intervention services for perpetrators. As a general rule, anger management and joint counseling are not recommended early in separation and litigation processes, at least until specialized domestic violence intervention and parenting programs are completed and the perpetrator has demonstrated behavioral change. One should obtain information about the reputation and evaluations of domestic violence services in the community. It is important to refer the client to a specialized domestic violence program, preferably one that addresses special parenting problems associated with domestic violence. Follow up to ensure attendance. If one's client is the alleged perpetrator, ensure that he or she is informed that in many jurisdictions best practice standards for domestic violence intervention programs require, as a condition of service, participant consent to the release of information about attendance and information relating to victim and child safety. One should discuss the implications, positive and negative, in connection with the family law proceeding, the child protection proceeding, and the criminal law proceeding. If in doubt, family lawyers representing alleged perpetrators can seek guidance from the client's criminal defense lawyer and or child protection lawyer.

3.6 Use of Modern Technology for Harassment and Surveillance

This issue should be addressed with all clients subjected to domestic violence. Provide information on how to protect against the use of technology for surveillance, stalking and harassment purposes (see part 5.8 below).

3.7 Engagement with the Criminal Law System

If the client has made a domestic violence complaint to the police, seek permission to contact police and Crown in order to be advised and kept informed of particulars - dates, times, and particulars - of criminal proceedings.

If criminal domestic violence matters are revealed in discussions with the targeted client, strongly advise the client subjected to violence to contact the police. Offer to assist in helping the client make the contact, explaining that police officers have investigative capacities not generally available to lawyers in family law matters, and that criminal courts can offer remedies that can ensure swift enforcement and that can supplement family law remedies. (See part 8.2.9 below in connection with parallel criminal and civil protection orders).

Encourage the targeted client to reveal full, detailed information about patterns of abuse and violence to the Crown and police as well as to victim services in order to ensure accurate screening and assessment of risk (see Part 6). Note, however, the importance of taking into account any concerns the client has about initiating criminal proceedings as well as safety and legal issues associated with disclosure.

When representing a family law client who has been charged with a criminal domestic violence offence who has also been subjected to a pattern of domestic violence in the past by the criminal complainant, strongly encourage the client to disclose complete information about the past pattern of domestic violence to his or her criminal defense lawyer. In addition to the importance of the information for criminal defense purposes, if the client pleads guilty or is convicted, the information can also help to ensure appropriate Crown submissions on sentence in connection with resistance violence (see part 5.4.2 below).

Discuss any safety concerns relating to revealing information, and work with the client to ensure these can be addressed safety. The client should understand police and Crown disclosure requirements in the criminal law context (see Parts 8 and 9 below). When the targeted parent is concerned about risks associated with revealing information, it may be appropriate to encourage the client to discuss safety issues with agencies and experts that do not have a duty to disclose particulars to the perpetrator in the criminal law case.Footnote 17

One should be aware, however, that persons subjected to domestic violence are not always aware of the risk to themselves or their children (see Parts 6 and 7). A recommendation to the client to engage in a preliminary self-assessment of the level of danger, using, for example, the tool that Dr. Jacqueline Campbell makes available to the public online at http://www.dangerassessment.org/about.aspx could encourage the client at risk to seek professional help in assessing the level of risk more fully, in engaging in safety planning, and in cooperating with the criminal process.

Remember too, however, that people subjected to domestic violence can have good reasons for not wanting to engage in the criminal process (for example, a principal wage earner's potential loss of employment, the impact of a criminal conviction on the children and the family, a belief that the violence was not characteristic and will not recur, a belief that the perpetrator's willingness to engage in intervention or other therapeutic services promises a better solution than a criminal conviction, or a fear of retaliation). Since domestic violence research indicates that one of the most effective, long-term solutions to domestic violence is empowerment of victims and families, it is important to consider and respect the targeted party's views on the benefits and drawbacks of engaging with criminal processes. Keep in mind, however, that it is a common pattern in these cases for many instances of violence and abuse to occur before a single incident of domestic violence is reported to anyone. Knowing this, lawyers representing those targeted by domestic violence should ensure their own access to complete information and consider the factors outlined in Sections 6 and 7 in connection with risk and the level of danger.

If criminal charges are dropped by the Crown, the perpetrator may seek disclosures of information from the police about the domestic violence investigation pursuant to rights to information in Freedom of Information Acts. Lawyers working for the client targeted by domestic violence in the family law case will wish to maintain a solid working relationship with police in order to be aware of such applications. If an application for disclosure of police domestic violence information is made, consider whether or not the information could negatively affect 'victim' or witness safety. If so, inform the police and refer the client for safety planning. See part 8.9 in connection with applications by alleged perpetrators for their own police files pursuant to Freedom of Information Acts.

3.8 Immigration

If the client subjected to domestic violence or the client accused of domestic violence is in the process of immigrating to Canada, the client should be informed of the potential implications of a criminal conviction on the immigration process. If warranted, consider consulting or referring the client to an immigration law specialist.

3.9 Translators and Interpreters

Consider the potential need to arrange for interpretation and or translation, taking into account The Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (U.K.) 1982, c. 11, (the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms), section 14: "A party or witness in any proceeding who does not understand or speak the language in which the proceedings are conducted or who is deaf has the right to the assistance of an interpreter." Although the case law is not settled on responsibility for payment when neither party can afford to pay for translation or interpretation, courts are required to provide these services whether the matter is a family law, criminal law, or child protection proceeding.

Explore options for the sharing of translation or interpretation costs across family, criminal, and child protection proceedings.

3.10 Delayed Disclosures

Anticipate delayed disclosure of documentary and other evidence from the criminal and the child protection authorities. The best course of action is to engage in a preliminary discussion as soon as possible with the Crown and child protection authorities regarding information that can be disclosed and shared across sectors by consent, as opposed to information that can only be disclosed pursuant to court order. Given that disclosure proceedings can cause considerable delay, early identification and action to obtain disclosure is advisable, particularly in a child protection context, where provision of services to families and placements of children are subject to strict time limits.

3.11 Recent Injuries

If injuries are recent, refer the client to medical assistance. It can be helpful, for court purposes, to provide information to the client and to health professionals relating to documentation of defensive and offensive injuries. Keep in mind the need for time-sequenced photographs of injuries, given that bruising can take days to appear. If recent attempted strangulation is alleged, refer to part 9.12 below.

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