Progressive reform within the criminal justice system? : an examination of Manitoba's Family Violence Court

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Cartmill, Sharon-Lynn Jeannette
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After years of work by the Battered Women's Movement, wife abuse and violence within the home have been identified as a profound social problem. Although feminists agree that wife abuse and domestic violence is a problem that must be addressed, there is much dissention within the feminist academic community with regard to how effective change can be made to protect victims. At issue is whether or not the criminal justice system can provide progressive reform for the women who are abused. This thesis addresses the above theoretical debate by examining if the Manitoba Family Violence Court can provide a more accessible, victim-sensitive approach to the adminstration of justice. A comparison is made regarding the treatment of domestic violence cases processed. within the Family Violence Court with domestic cases that were processed within the General Court, both before and after the specialized Family Violence Court was established. Specifically, the comparison is made on the basis of laying charges, enforcing restraining orders, case processing (stay and attrition rates), types of sentences and the degree of secondary victimization within the court process. Overall, it was found that progressive change over time has occurred within the criminal justice system. However, it is through specialization of the Family Violence Court that we find the most profound, progressive response to the needs of wife abuse victims.