Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Domestic absuse is nothing to joke about. We've all heard and read about the worst-case scenarios, where an argument escalates into violence and ends in tragedy.
Police are instructed to treat each and every complaint seriously - and with good measure. It's probably better to over-react than to do nothing at all and have it come back to haunt you later.So with this in mind, I ask you today for your thoughts on the troubling case of Noelley Mowatt.To briefly recap:Mowatt called Toronto police last year following an argument with her boyfriend and claimed he'd physically assaulted her. Not surprisingly, police responded and charged the man.As the case wound its way through court, Mowatt changed her tune and made it clear she no longer wanted to proceed. She vowed not to show up in court.Police and justice officials were concerned - likely for her own safety more than anything - and decided to take some pretty unusual steps to secure her appearance.They got a material witness warrant and arrested her.The case became a big deal earlier this month, especially after it was revealed Mowatt was due to give birth any day. Mowatt spent about a week behind bars, then appeared in court and did exactly what she said she would.She claimed her boyfriend hadn't touched her and that she lied by originally claiming he had."I didn't need any help and I wasn't in danger," Mowatt said from the witness stand. "I wanted to punish him."The case has now been adjourned, Mowatt has been released on bail and the accused will likely walk.Mowatt's lawyer, Lydia Riva, joined me on my national radio show this past Sunday. She is furious at what justice officials did to her very pregnant client, saying it was "totally unjust" and not the way a victim of abuse victim should be treated.Of course, Mowatt now claims she is NOT a victim of abuse.One of two things has likely happened here.1) Mowatt is playing the system like a fiddle and made a false claim in order to "get back" at her boyfriend following a fight. Knowing police take these matters seriously, she probably wouldn't be the first person to cry wolf and use the law as a weapon of sorts.2) Mowatt is a true victim, caught in the vicious cycle of domestic abuse we see all too often. She's probably scared, maybe has even been threatened not to testify.The question is, which of these scenarios is true. And how would we ever truly know, given the fact this case (like the majority of domestic-related incidents) is a he-said/she-said with no independent witnesses.A few other important questions to consider.Did police and justice officials cross the line by locking Mowatt up?Should the assault charges simply have been dropped once Mowatt refused to testify?If so, would the same officials who made that decision have come under intense attack if Mowatt was found seriously assaulted, or even dead, days, weeks or months later?Should Mowatt now face charges for mischief, perjury or obstruction of justice, since she has said under oath she lied to police?Lots to think about, and no easy answers from my perspective. Let's get a discussion going - post your thoughts below.
We'll also chat more about this on this Sunday's radio show.