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Domestic violence victim in North Bay doesn’t have to testify in front of former partner in court, judge rules

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A 24-year-old woman involved in an intimate partner violence trial in North Bay can testify remotely so she doesn’t have to face her former partner in court, a judge has ruled.

The accused in the case faces 11 criminal charges involving intimate partner violence.

Charges include “assault, assault by choking or suffocating or strangling, unlawful confinement, breaches of probation, as well as one count of threatening to kill,” said the decision from the Ontario Court of Justice, released Nov. 29.

The accused in the case is a former boyfriend of the victim, a relationship she described as “toxic, unhealthy, and indicated that she was the victim of physical and verbal abuse.”

The defence lawyer in the case opposed the idea, arguing that the woman’s concerns about the impact on her mental health “are simply bare assertions that are unsubstantiated by any medical documentation.”

The defence lawyer also argued that having her testify in court would allow the defence to “assess the demeanor and body language” of the woman much more clearly.

But the Crown argued that the woman would not be able to give “a full and candid” account of what happened if she had to share the same room as the defendant.

“If she were in the same courtroom … she wouldn't be a 100 per cent focused on the questions asked of her based upon the intimidation she experienced in their relationship, and that she would be fearful and intimidated to speak in front of him,” the decision said.

“She further explained that she doesn't feel that she could personally give a 100 per cent if she were in the same room as him and if she were able to see him.”

He may be in custody now but that “doesn't change the trauma experience that she had with him.”

A hearing was held Oct. 11 in which the judge ruled that the best chance of getting “the best evidence available to decide this case in a fair and just manner” would be if the woman testified remotely.

Otherwise, she “would be intimidated or afraid of the accused to the point where it would negatively impact her ability to provide this court with more fulsome and honest testimony,” the judge ruled.

“It is not the court’s desire to place (the woman) in a further position of vulnerability or mental health struggles as a result of any trauma that she may experience from testifying in person in this trial. Indeed, it would be in society's best interest to encourage the reporting of offences of an intimate partner violence nature by permitting witnesses who suffer from significant mental health challenges to testify by CCTV.” 

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