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Justice Department study says women batterers on bail batter again

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OTTAWA - A new Justice Department study suggests a significant number of men released on bail after allegedly beating up their partners return home to beat them up again.

The research also indicates that men with violent criminal histories are twice as likely to violate bail conditions, and to again harass or assault their wives or partners.

A women's shelter advocate says the study shows that bail is too readily granted to some wife-assaulters, and says more accused men need to wear electronic tracking devices while back out on the street.

The findings are contained in an unpublished internal brief that is part of a larger Justice Department project to examine Canada's bail regime.

A draft copy of the study, dated November last year and stamped "not for public distribution," was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

"Violent offences involving an intimate partner present a unique challenge as victims often have ongoing contact with the accused, i.e., reside with the accused person, have children together, etc., which may increase the risk that the violence may be repeated or that it may escalate," says the brief.

"Therefore, it is important to better understand bail outcomes within the context of intimate partner violence."

Two researchers examined 233 files at Winnipeg's domestic violence court for 2004, in which an accused person was charged with a violent assault against their intimate partner and received bail, either from the police or the court.

The vast majority were men — 198 cases — and about 70 per cent were married.

Just over half violated their strict bail conditions, which almost always required no contact with the victim. And of those who violated bail, more than half were charged with again assaulting or harassing their victim.

The police granted bail in just over half the cases, while the courts released the remainder on bail.

"The factors that influenced bail violations included being unemployed, having a history of at least one violent criminal conviction, and being on probation or bail at the time of the index offence," the authors conclude.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department called the brief an "internal policy document" that was never intended for publication.

"The study was part of a larger initiative looking at research on the bail regime in Canada," Carole Saindon said in an email response to questions.

The brief itself cautions that the findings "were derived from one sample at one period of time and as such, results cannot be generalized to the Winnipeg domestic violence court, to other domestic violence courts, or to other cases involving violence against an intimate partner."

But the executive director of Osborne House, a Winnipeg women's shelter founded in 1974, says the findings about men on bail who return to beat up their wives are no surprise.

"We see it happening all the time," Barbara Judt said in an interview. "There needs to be a stronger course of action taken with them."

For one, the justice system has to do a better job of deciding who gets bail, she said.

Judt also supports having electronic tracking devices attached to some men on bail so that police — as well as women victims — can monitor their whereabouts, and prevent sometimes horrendous assaults.

"We see the impact of the beatings," she says. "There are days it takes my breath away. ...

"When you see the outline of someone's boot on someone's cheek — it is brutal."

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