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B.C. Liberal MLA Pat Pimm's special prosecutor and B.C.'s broken protections of women

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A special prosecutor has been appointed to review the investigation into former BC Liberal MLA Pat Pimm, who was arrested last month following an alleged domestic dispute with his wife.

Pimm, being a politician, won’t run the normal track through the justice system. Instead, he’ll go through a separate system for politicians that sees special prosecutors appointed by the government they’re meant to judge. 

It’s a discredited system that is still in use despite troubling revelations from the Kash Heed prosecution and re-prosecution. 

Given the circumstances of Pimm’s arrest and the startling statistics on violence against women in B.C., the application of special treatment to the domestic transgressions of politicians should be reconsidered. 

Out of 147 women murdered between 2003 and 2008, about 40 per cent of them were the result of domestic violence, according to a Domestic Violence Death Review Panel report published May 2010. Less than four per cent of murdered males were victims of a domestic violence related homicide.

Domestic violence in B.C. is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women, yet no amount of well-meaning reports and reviews seems capable of compelling the BC Liberal government to do anything about it.

The Domestic Violence Death Review Panel made 19 recommendations to seven different BC Liberal ministers. The key recommendations were to the Attorney General and Minister of Public Safety calling for greater coordination between ministries and tougher rules for prosecution, including:

  • a standard definition of spousal abuse,
  • a standard guide to investigation, and
  • standard information presented to Crown Counsel to inform prosecutorial decisions and remove arbitrary decision making.

 

The point of the recommendations was to standardize and speed up the process.  Once the decision to prosecute is made, the Death Review Panel recommended the first court appearance be within 10 days, with a trial date set within 60 days of the offence.

But the BC Liberals have yet to implement any of the recommendations. Not surprising when you consider it’s the same party that threw out B.C.'s "zero tolerance" policy governing domestic violence prosecutions in 2003.

Put the continuing dysfunction of the government when it comes to dealing with domestic violence and the discredited special prosecutor system together and we get the following:

  • a domestic abuse case with no timeline for a report on charges,
  • appearance dates or trial dates,
  • no assurances the investigation was conducted in a way that conforms to an acceptable standard for domestic violence cases,
  • no assurance the Special Prosecutor will have to give primary consideration to a set of standard information when deciding on charges, and
  • no assurances the Special Prosecutor will be guided by the overall standards recommended by the Death Review Panel. 

 

It’s a recipe that may lead to widespread public cynicism, and it cries of special treatment for politicians that will likely benefit a sitting Liberal MLA.

Note that none of the mainstream media provided any context regarding the government’s appalling record on domestic violence in their coverage of the Pimm case.  

They may not think it’s relevant.  It is.

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