Calgary’s latest homicide, which police said was targeted and domestic in nature, has raised questions about how a woman could be found suffering from and dying from apparent stab wounds outside a school after police and the justice system were engaged multiple times in the past year.
“The questions I have are when he was originally charged… he would have gone before a judge and the question of bail would have been decided at that time. And it’s up to the Crown to make the argument for bail,” Doug King, justice studies professor at Mount Royal University, said.
“A restraining order, a ‘no-contact’ order was placed on him. He violated it twice. And each time he had violated it, he would have been before a judge again to look at his release.
“I question what was the logic behind releasing him out after his second violation?”
In a release issued Wednesday evening, Calgary police confirmed warrants were issued on Tuesday for the arrest of the suspect in relation to domestic charges. Police also said they engaged with the family “numerous times” and charged the suspect on three separate occasions.
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Tuesday afternoon, police confirmed the suspect had been charged and released by the courts on a no-contact order.
Midday on Tuesday, after the incident, the suspect was located by police, deceased.
Tuesday morning at around 7:40 a.m., officers responded to calls at a southwest school and found the injured woman.
CPS Chief Mark Neufeld called the death a “tremendous tragedy.”
“On the surface when you look at it, you’re right, it looks like everybody did what they needed to do,” Neufeld said Thursday morning. He said the investigation was a complicated file that would have required multiple systems to work in concert.
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“In my experience, where there’s been gaps it’s at the margins. And I don’t think you can know that yet and so this (incident) is still actively under investigation.
“I think we owe a further duty to try to dig deeper, notwithstanding the obvious, to try to figure out the why.”
Neufeld said his “strongest recommendation” is that these deaths, and the events that led up to them, be reviewed by the Family Violence Death Review Committee, after Calgary police conclude their investigation.
“It’s a bit of a different investigation now in the sense it’s not about finding out who did what. It’s about finding out sort of what was the history here and what can be learned so this never, never happens again,” the police chief said.
Neufeld confirmed the suspect was arrested three times.
“I believe he was remanded in custody and released by (a) justice of the peace,” Neufeld said.
Right to bail
Calgary’s top cop said the use of bail can be dependent on the individual’s history.
He said for people with a violent criminal past that includes the use of firearms, “bail is fairly easy and it seems pretty straightforward.”
But he acknowledged bail in cases of domestic violence adds “another layer of complexity.”
“Everybody has a right to bail, number one. And people are innocent until proven guilty,” Neufeld said. “The bail system is such that, generally speaking, the least restrictive form of bail is granted.
“So in situations like this, you’re looking at the risk that an individual poses to an intimate partner. If you put that person into custody, they may lose a job. They may not be able to provide for the family. There’s many implications to it.”
Alberta Justice Minister Mickey Amery said the province implemented measures in September to help alleviate the backlog and caseload in the province’s courts.
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“These are working quite well, I know from the metrics that we’ve been receiving from the Crown Prosecution Service, as well as police and defense attorneys. We know that Crown prosecutors are taking a very hard line approach when it comes to serious offenses,” Amery said Thursday.
“Is it a perfect system? No. It certainly can’t address and alleviate every single one of these tragedies. But we think that it’s working.”
Amery said his heart goes out to the families impacted by Tuesday’s events.
“I know that there are three young children who are going to grow up without parents now, and that’s the greatest tragedy of all,” the justice minister said.
King said in these types of instances, it would have been the judge’s decision, not the legal process to get the individual before a judge, that leads to the release of the suspect.
He also said while a vast majority of people will abide by the law, the more emotional and irrational a person becomes, the less likely they will be deterred by a judge’s release order.
“The key ultimately rests in prevention. And that’s not solely the justice system’s responsibility,” King said.
More than the justice system
Neufeld said part of the CPS investigation will include a systemic review of the history of the family and what contacts they had with the many support systems in the city meant to help people experiencing domestic violence.
The Calgary Police Service said it has an “extremely robust and highly regarded” strategy to address domestic violence that includes integration with HomeFront, who are embedded in the police domestic conflict unit. CPS also works with a number of organizations to connect people experiencing domestic violence with resources.
While King wonders if Tuesday’s events could lead to a change in police policy, he said those support systems are key to help address domestic violence.
“There was no doubt someone was being victimized by domestic violence behind closed doors. So it’s not a criminal justice issue, it’s a social justice issue. And we need to fund and and provide avenues for potential victims and current victims to find safety,” King said.
“That’s our social safety networks.”
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Neufeld says he believes domestic violence is still “seriously underreported.”
“There’s a lot of people that are struggling in situations where they’re unsupported right now,” the police chief said. “And so my strongest recommendation, again, would be for people to come forward and get those supports.”
At an unrelated press conference, Mayor Jyoti Gondek called the domestic homicide “senseless, horrible” and “a travesty.”
“It is a reminder that domestic violence is a horrible thing, and we need to do everything we possibly can to help people who are trying to flee those situations, because in this particular case, all the steps were taken and still there was a tragic loss of life,” Gondek said.
“I think as a society, we need to take this very seriously. And I think it’s important that when a woman says something feels off, it’s important to listen to her.”
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