In addition to providing crucial legal services to victims of gender-based violence (GBV) as they pursue criminal cases and protection orders / restraining orders against their abusers, LvA also works to hold state actors such as police officers and prosecutors accountable for any mistreatment of victims and/or failure to fulfill their legal obligations in GBV cases. See Joyce's case below for one such example.
Joyce* (name changed) was first referred to LvA by a police officer who noted that there appeared to have been some misconduct by the investigating officer assigned to Joyce’s sexual assault case during the course of the investigation. LvA learned that the investigating officer assigned to the case pressured Joyce to withdraw the case and even told the Joyce’s colleague, who was also a witness in the case, that the case “wasn’t going anywhere” and that Joyce would be better off withdrawing the case. In addition, the investigating officer refused to consider a recording of the perpetrator explicitly confessing to the sexual assault, telling the victim that it was not necessary. This conduct left Joyce feeling discouraged and caused her to question whether her case was being treated with the seriousness that it deserved. Due to the investigating officer’s failure to include this crucial piece of evidence in the docket, the prosecutor decided not to prosecute the case due to insufficient evidence.
In response, LvA engaged with the Department of Community Safety who are responsible for investigating instances of police misconduct, bringing Joyce's case to their immediate attention. Through this collaborative effort, the Department swiftly addressed the misconduct exhibited by the investigating officer, requiring him to provide an explanation for the omission of evidence from the docket. In addition, the Department will be facilitating a meeting between the relevant prosecutor and Joyce to explore the possibility of re-opening her case in light of the omitted evidence. LvA is continuing to monitor this case and follow up with the Department regularly to ensure that the case is re-opened.
Such treatment by investigating officers not only results in further trauma for the victim, but can also have a profound impact on a victim’s willingness to move forward with a criminal case, thereby contributing to high levels of attrition seen in cases of sexual violence. In addition, scepticism and lack of support from the police undermines victims' trust in the justice system and perpetuates a culture of silence and under reporting. LvA's intervention not only provided Joyce with a renewed sense of hope but also reinstated her confidence in the ability of the criminal justice system to seek justice on her behalf. It was important for Joyce to realize that she was not alone in her pursuit of justice and that her experience mattered. This case also highlights the important role of collaborative partnerships in holding state actors accountable and ensuring that victims of sexual violence receive the comprehensive support they deserve.
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