An Estimation of the Economic Impact of Spousal Violence in Canada, 2009

3. Justice System Costs

A summary of both criminal justice system costs and civil justice system costs for spousal violence incidents in 2009 is presented in Table 3.1. Appendix A provides detailed calculations of each cost item.

Table 3.1: Justice System Costs
  Violence against females Violence against males Total
Criminal Justice System $271,964,457 $48,102,455 $320,066,911
Police $121,599,167 $23,975,267 $145,574,434
Court $25,763,472 $4,588,151 $30,351,623
Prosecution $21,346,584 $3,801,558 $25,148,142
Legal aid $14,847,274 $2,644,113 $17,491,387
Corrections $88,407,960 $13,093,366 $101,501,325
Incarceration $35,352,714 $4,724,234 $40,076,948
Conditional sentences $2,862,126 $491,211 $3,353,337
Probation $50,193,120 $7,877,920 $58,071,040
Fines ($135,276) ($22,689) ($157,965)
Civil Justice System $182,257,357 $42,860,469 $225,117,826
Civil protection orders $1,752,400 $519,800 $2,272,200
Divorce and Separation $33,162,930 $7,778,959 $40,941,889
Child protection systems $147,342,027 $34,561,710 $181,903,737
Total Justice Systems $454,221,814 $90,962,924 $545,184,737

Note: May not add to stated totals due to rounding

3.1 Criminal Justice System

The majority of spousal violence incidents are never reported to police. Of those that are reported, only a portion result in charges laid, fewer proceed to court, and even fewer result in a conviction. Figure 3.1 illustrates the attrition which occurs as incidents and cases move through the criminal justice system. Despite this attrition, spousal violence results in immense costs to the criminal justice system. The estimates of police, court, prosecution, legal aid, and corrections costs are presented in this section. Appendix A provides detailed calculations and sources for each cost estimate.

Figure 3.1: Spousal Violence Attrition Pyramid

Figure 3.1: A figure indicating the attrition of events or records as spousal violence cases move from incidents to the police to the courts.

Note: All figures for 2009.

Figure 3.1 - Text equivalent

An image in the shape of a pyramid indicating the attrition of events or records as spousal violence cases progress through the justice system. The base and largest section of the pyramid is actual incidents, the true number of which is unknown. There were 942,000 self-reported incidents (reported by 335,697 victims) as recorded in the 2009 GSS on the next level of the pyramid. There were 46,918 police-reported incidents as recorded in the 2009 UCR. There were 34,859 incidents cleared by charge (against 33,809 victims). There were 21,559 court cases. The smallest section of the pyramid is convictions, of which there were 11,373.

3.1.1 Police

To calculate the economic impact of spousal violence on police services, a per-incident cost for each Criminal Code offence is estimated using the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistic's (CCJS) Crime Severity Index and these incident costs are then applied to the number of corresponding spousal violence incidents of each offence.

Total Canadian police expenditures in 2009 were $12.3 billion; this figure includes salaries, wages, employment benefits, and operating expenses such as accommodation, fuel, and maintenance (Beattie 2009).Footnote 13 However, only the costs associated with activities directly related to criminal incidents are required to calculate the economic impact of spousal violence and therefore only the proportion of the overall police budget that is allocated strictly toward police protection and investigation activities is considered. Walby (2004) infers that police services in the UK spend approximately 61% of resources directly addressing crime. After consultations with a police service in Canada, the proportion of police time allocated strictly to crime-related activities is estimated to be 65% in Canada.Footnote 14

The Crime Severity Index assigns a weight to each offence according to the severity of the offence, where the severity is determined by sentence lengths. For example, the severity weight for homicide (including first degree murder) is 7,042, whereas the severity weight for common assault (level 1) is 23. The first step in estimating the police costs per incident is determining the “total severity” of each offence, which is done by multiplying the severity weight of each offence by the number of incidents of each offence. The second step is determining each offence's “weighted proportion of severity” by dividing each offence's “total severity” calculated in the first step by the summation of all of the “total severities”; for example, the “weighted proportion” of first degree murder is 1.2% and the “weighted proportion” of common assault (level 1) is higher (2.5%) because of the greater number of incidents of common assault (181,570 common assaults vs. 280 first degree murders). The third step is determining the “overall police expenditure” on each offence by multiplying each offence's “weighted proportion” of severity by the total police budget (adjusted for the 65% proportion of police time allocated to criminal activities). The final step is determining the “per-incident police costs” for each offence by dividing the “overall police expenditure” on each offence by the number of incidents of each offence. Table 3.2 presents detailed information of police costs for selected offences; a complete table of all spousal violence violations is presented in Appendix A.

In 2009, 46,918 spousal violence incidents were reported to the police, and more than four fifths (81.2%) of these incidents were committed against women.Footnote 15 By multiplying the per-incident costs of each offence by the number of corresponding spousal violence incidents of each offence and then summing over all offences, the total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on police services is estimated at $145,574,434.

Police costs – SV against females $121,599,167
Police costs – SV against males $23,975,267
Total Criminal Justice System Costs, Police $145,574,434

Table 3.2: Police Costs for Selected Spousal Violence Offences Table note
Offences Severity weights Cost per incident Spousal violence incidents against Police costs for spousal violence against
F M F M
Murder – 1st degree 7,042 $344,444 25 4 $8,698,086 $1,391,694
Attempted murder 1,411 $69,019 44 14 $3,067,515 $976,027
Aggravated sexual assault – level 3 1,047 $51,225 9 0 $465,678 $0
Sexual assault – level 1 211 $10,320 726 15 $7,494,997 $156,363
Assault with weapon causing bodily harm – level 2 77 $3,785 4,124 1,812 $15,611,108 $6,859,252
Common assault – level 1 23 $1,146 23,899 5,444 $27,391,520 $6,240,080
Robbery 583 $28,517 102 24 $2,909,331 $691,326
Forcible confinement or kidnapping 477 $23,332 1,068 29 $24,911,308 $683,470
Extortion 229 $11,201 29 7 $328,123 $79,202
Criminal harassment 45 $2,201 2,754 349 $6,060,962 $769,293
Threatening or harassing phone calls 17 $832 843 289 $701,356 $240,225

Note: May not add to stated totals due to rounding.

3.1.2 Court

Calculation of the economic impact of spousal violence on the courts requires the number of spousal violence court cases and the cost per court case.

The Adult Criminal Court Survey (ACCS) and the Youth Court Survey (YCS) collect data on criminal court cases, but these surveys do not capture the relationship between the victim and the accused. Therefore, the number of spousal violence court cases must be estimated using data from the UCR2, the ACCS, and the YCS. The UCR2 records the clearance status of each incident reported to police, and it is possible to determine how many spousal violence incidents had the clearance status “cleared by charge”, which indicates that a charge was laid. Police cases in which there is a charge may proceed from police jurisdiction to the next phase of the criminal justice system, the courts, but not all charges result in court cases. A charge may be dropped, withdrawn after the Crown's post-charge screening (where relevant), diverted to alternative measures, or combined into one case with other charges incurred by an accused person during an incident. The number of court cases will therefore not be equal to the number of police charges. The rate of “charges resulting in court cases” is estimated by dividing the number of court cases by the number of charges for all violent violations with no distinction made between different relationship types, as the court data does not capture relationship types. According to the UCR2, the total number of offenders who were charged with a violent crime in 2009 was 157,245, while the court surveys record a total of 100,302 court cases involving violent offences, and dividing the latter by the former results in a rate of 63.8%. This rate is then applied to the number of spousal violence offences in which a charge was laid (33,798), resulting in 21,559 spousal violence court cases. This total estimate is divided into 18,300 cases for violence against females and 3,259 cases for violence against males, which are obtained using the ratio of spousal violence offenders who committed offences against females to spousal violence offenders who committed offences against males. These estimates of court caseloads are used as the base numbers to calculate not only court costs, but also prosecution costs, legal aid costs, and corrections costs.

The cost of each court case must be estimated from the most recent court expenditures data available: the 2002/03 Courts Personnel and Expenditures Survey (CPES), summarized in Statistics Canada's Overview of the Courts Personnel and Expenditures Survey (2004a). The CPES includes expenditure data for criminal courts and civil courts as a combined total, but many costs are excluded, such as building occupancy costs, maintenance costs and lease costs. Since the court expenditures data is only available as a total of criminal and civil costs, both the number of criminal and civil court cases must be known to calculate the average cost of a court case. The number of civil court cases in 2002/2003 is estimated by calculating the civil case initiation rate in the population for the years preceding 2009 from Statistics Canada (2011a; 2010a). This rate, 2.07%, is multiplied by the population of the relevant jurisdictions in 2002/2003 to obtain the number of civil court cases in 2002/2003. The estimate of civil court cases in 2002/2003 is 648,277 and when added to the 496,880 criminal court cases, the total number of court cases in 2002/2003 is 1,145,157. Total court expenditures in 2002/2003 were $1.151 billion and the average cost per court case was therefore $1,007.

The ACCS presents another important consideration: the average number of appearances per criminal case and the average duration of criminal cases increased by approximately 23% from 2002/03 to 2008/2009. There has been a general trend towards lengthier, more complex court cases and this should be reflected in the court cost estimate. Therefore, in addition to the adjustment for inflation, the average court cost is adjusted by a multiplier of 1.23 to account for the increased complexity and the average criminal court cost per case is estimated at $1,408 in 2009.

Multiplying the cost per court case by the estimated number of spousal violence court cases, the total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on criminal courts is estimated at $30,351,623.

Court costs – SV against females $25,763,472
Court costs – SV against males $4,588,151
Total Criminal Justice System Costs, Court $30,351,623

3.1.3 Prosecution

Estimating the prosecution costs due to spousal violence requires the number of spousal violence court cases and the prosecution cost per court case. As estimated above, the total number of spousal violence criminal court cases was 21,559. The number of court cases for violence against females was 18,300 and the number of criminal court cases for violence against males was 3,259.

The prosecution cost per court case is derived from the 2002/03 Prosecutions Personnel and Expenditures Survey (PPES), as summarized in Statistics Canada's Overview of the Prosecutions Personnel and Expenditures Survey (2004b). According to the PPES, the total expenditure on criminal prosecution in 2002/2003 was $352 million and the total criminal caseload was 422,096.Footnote 16 Dividing the expenditure by the caseload gives an average prosecution cost per criminal case in 2002/2003 of $834.Footnote 17 Adjusting for both inflation and the increasing complexity of court cases (a factor of 1.23), the prosecution cost per criminal case is estimated at $1,166 for 2009.

Applying the prosecution cost per criminal case to the number of spousal violence court cases, the total economic impact of spousal violence on prosecution in 2009 is estimated at $25,148,142.

Prosecution costs – SV against females $21,346,584
Prosecution costs – SV against males $3,801,558
Total Criminal Justice System Costs, Prosecution $25,148,142

3.1.4 Legal aid

The economic impact of spousal violence on legal aid is estimated using the number of criminal court cases and the legal aid cost per court case. The total number of spousal violence criminal court cases was 21,559, as calculated above. The number of criminal court cases for violence against females was 18,300 and the number of criminal court cases for violence against males was 3,259.

The legal aid cost per court case must be estimated using data from Statistics Canada (2010b and 2011c). These reports show that “direct” legal aid service expenditures for criminal matters in 2009 were $313,490,065, where “direct” legal aid service expenditures include salaries for duty counsel and staff lawyers. However, “other” legal aid expenditures, which include indirect services such as external project expenditures and research activities, are not separated into criminal and civil categories, so in order to include “other” legal aid expenditures in the overall legal aid estimate, the civil court contributions to “other” legal aid expenditures must be excluded. To do so, the proportion of “direct” legal aid expenditures attributable to criminal matters is calculated, and the resulting percent is applied to the “other” legal aid expenditures, which leaves an estimate of the “other” legal aid expenditures on criminal matters. Summing the “direct” and “other” legal aid expenditures on criminal matters results in $391,176,171 of total legal aid spending on criminal matters. As the ACCS and YCS record 482,144 criminal cases in 2009, the average legal aid expenditure per criminal court case in 2009 was $811.Footnote 18

Multiplying the legal aid cost per case by the number of spousal violence court cases, the total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on criminal legal aid is estimated at $17,491,387.

Legal aid costs – SV against females $14,847,274
Legal aid costs – SV against males $2,644,113
Total Criminal Justice System Costs, Legal Aid $17,491,387

3.1.5 Correctional services

Four sentence outcomes will be analysed: custody, conditional sentences, probation, and fines. The ACCS and YCS record the number of convicted offenders, but they do not indicate offenders of spousal violence specifically. The number of convicted spousal violence offenders must therefore be calculated from the estimates of the number of spousal violence court cases and ACCS data on conviction rates. The estimated number of spousal violence court cases is 21,559, of which 18,300 are for violence against females and 3,259 are for violence against males.

According to the ACCS, conviction rates for spousal violence-related offences in 2009 ranged from 16.7% (females accused of attempted murder) to 70.8% (males accused of other sexual offences), with the exact rate depending on the type of offence and the gender of the accused. Higher conviction rates were observed for male perpetrators than for female perpetrators for all violations. The number of spousal violence court cases for each offence type is obtained by applying the rate of “charges resulting in court cases” to the number of spousal violence incidents with a clearance status of “cleared by charge”; both are explained above in the section on Court Costs. These case numbers are then multiplied by the conviction rates for each offence, separately for male and female accused, to obtain the number of convicted persons of each offence type by gender.

Convicted offenders who receive a custody sentence, a conditional sentence, probation, or a fine are examined. In cases where offenders received multiple sentences, only the most serious sentence is considered. Among offenders convicted of spousal violence, 60.2% received probation as their most serious sentence, followed by custody (23.8%), conditional sentences (4.5%) and fines (3.2%). The remaining 8.3% of convicted offenders received other types of sentences, including restitution, absolute and conditional discharge, payment of legal costs, and suspension of driver's license. Table 3.3 presents the distribution of most serious sentences for spousal violence-related convictions by sentence type and gender.

Table 3.3: Number and Distribution Proportion of Most Serious Sentence by Sentence Type and Gender of Accused, 2009
Custody Conditional sentences Probation Fines Other Total
M F M F M F M F M F M F
2,515 188 442 70 5,972 877 319 50 787 154 10,035 1,339
25.1% 14.0% 4.4% 5.2% 59.5% 65.5% 3.2% 3.7% 7.8% 11.5% 100% 100%
3.1.5.1 Custody

Convicted offenders who receive a custody sentence of 24 months or more serve their sentences in federal custody, while custody sentences of less than 24 months are served in provincial institutions. The cost of holding offenders differs between federal and provincial institutions, so these two custody types are examined separately. Offenders in all correctional institutions may be released prior to the completion of the full sentence length, either on parole or by the standard statutory release that is usually granted after serving two thirds of a sentence,Footnote 19 and sentence time served in a corrections institution is calculated separately from sentence time served in the community. The sentence types, sentence lengths, parole grant rates, and incarceration costs vary between male and female offenders, particularly for federal custody, and estimates are calculated separately by both gender of the offender and gender of the victim. The costs of remand are not included in custody estimates due to data limitations.

Federal custody. It is estimated that 25 male offenders and 6 female offenders were admitted to federal custody for committing spousal violence-related crimes in 2009.Footnote 20 Calculations based on ACCS data show that the average federal custody sentence length for crimes committed in 2009 (for both male and female inmates) was 1,245 days. According to The Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview Annual Report 2010 (Public Safety Canada 2010), the full parole grant rate in 2009 was 70.8% for federal female inmates and 39.3% for federal male inmates. Compared to male offenders, female inmates also served a shorter proportion of their sentences before being released on parole (36.1% vs. 38.5%). In addition, the successful completion rate for parole was 81.2%, which results in estimates of 8 male and 3 female inmates successfully completing their parole.

Incarcerated offenders who are not granted parole are normally eligible for statutory release after serving approximately two thirds of a sentence, except in cases of 1st degree murder, 2nd degree murder, and some other rare offences in which offenders are considered a high risk to recidivate. It is therefore assumed that 95% of federal inmates not released on parole were released on statutory release and that the remaining 5% of non-paroled inmates served the entire sentence time in prison. Public Safety Canada (2010) reports that the successful completion rate of statutory releases for federal offenders was 61.7% in 2009. Offenders who did not successfully complete their sentences in the community (either parole or statutory release) are assumed to have breached the release conditions at the midpoint of the parole or statutory release, and the offender is then assumed to be immediately returned to a correctional facility where theremainder of the sentence is served. Due to lack of data, those cases where a new charge was laid are not considered.

Male offenders and female offenders spent an estimated 19,462 and 4,063 days respectively in federal incarceration for spousal violence-related convictions, and the average daily cost of federal incarceration was $292 and $556 for male and female inmates respectively (Public Service Canada 2010). It follows that the federal incarceration costs total $5,682,904 for offenders convicted of spousal violence against females, and $2,259,028 for offenders convicted of spousal violence against males.

The total number of days served in the community (either parole or statutory release) is estimated at 11,664 for male offenders and 3,407 for female offenders. According to Public Safety Canada (2010), the annual cost of supervising a federal offender in the community was $29,476 in 2008/09, equivalent to $81 per day in 2009. Therefore, the total community supervision costs were $944,784 for offenders of spousal violence against females and $275,967 for offenders of spousal violence against males.

In addition, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) offers a variety of family violence prevention programs to reduce violence and abuse toward intimate partners and family members. These include the high intensity Family violence Prevention Program, the high intensity Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Program and the Family Violence Prevention Maintenance program.In 2009, the total expense related to the delivery of these national programs was about $3,560,616. As family violence also includes violence against parents, children, siblings and other extended family, spousal violence only accounts for a proportion of all family violence. According to Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2009 (Burns et al. 2009), there were a total of 75,779 victims of family violence in 2007 where 40,165 were victims of spousal violence. It follows that spousal violence cases represent approximately 53% of all family violence cases. It is assumed that the same percentage of the total expenditures also pertained to offenders who committed spousal violence. Therefore, it is estimated that $1,887,126 was spent on a variety of family violence prevention programs for offenders of spousal violence specifically, with about $1,648,306 was for male offenders and $238,820 was for female offenders.

In sum, the total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on federal custody correctional services is estimated at $11,049,809.

Provincial custody.It is estimated that there were 2,489 male offenders and 182 female offenders admitted to provincial custody in 2009 for spousal violence-related crimes. Using ACCS sentencing data, the average provincial custody sentence lengths in 2009 for relevant offences are estimated at 113 days for male offenders and 86 days for female offenders. Offenders sentenced to provincial custody are generally granted full parole after serving one third of the total sentence. According to the National Parole Board (2010), the provincial full parole rate was 38.5% in 2009, and 82.7% of paroles were successfully completed. All offenders in provincial custody not granted parole are released into community supervision, by law, after serving two thirds of the total sentence. For those offenders who were granted but did not successfully complete parole, it is assumed that the breach of release conditions and subsequent re-incarceration occurred at the midpoint of the parole period, and that the remainder of the sentence was served in a correctional facility. Costs related to new offences and charges are not considered due to lack of data.

According to the ACCS data in Adult Correctional Services in Canada, 2008/2009 (Calverley 2010), the average daily cost of holding a provincial offender in incarceration was $161 in 2009. No official provincial parole cost data is available, so based on available information sources it is assumed that provincial parole incurs a daily cost of only 20% of the cost of provincial incarceration,Footnote 21 which amounts to $32 per day.

The total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on provincial custody correctional services is estimated at $29,027,139.

3.1.5.2 Conditional sentences

An estimated 442 male offenders and 70 female offenders received conditional sentences for spousal violence-related offences in 2009. According to Department of Justice Canada (2000), the average length of a conditional sentence for family violence-related offences in 1996/1997 was 9 months (270 days). This average is applied to those convicted of spousal violence crimes in 2009. The daily cost of supervising an offender with a conditional sentence is estimated at $24.Footnote 22

The number of offenders with a conditional sentence is multiplied by both the average length of a conditional sentence and the daily cost of supervision. The total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on correctional services through conditional sentencing is estimated at $3,353,337.

3.1.5.3 Probation

An estimated 5,972 male offenders and 876 female offenders were sentenced to probation after being convicted of committing a spousal violence-related offence in 2009. According to Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2004 (Brzozowski 2004), the average length of probation for spousal violence-related offences was 424 days in 2002; this length is applied to spousal violence offenders convicted of crimes in 2009. The daily cost of supervision associated with probation is assumed to be $20, which is less than the daily cost of the more rigorous conditional sentence.Footnote 23

Probation costs are estimated by multiplying the number of offenders on probation by both the average length and cost of probation. The total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on correctional services through probation is estimated at $58,071,040.

3.1.5.4 Fines

In contrast to all other cost items in the report, fines are considered revenue to the criminal justice system. The overall framework does not recognize offenders as being included in the social welfare function and any financial contribution by offenders into the system is therefore classified as a benefit. It follows then that fines are also unique in this report in that they are a source of revenue to the criminal justice system. While fines are not considered an economic impact on the criminal justice system, in the analysis of the financial burden by who actually pays (found in the final section of this report), fines are counted as revenue to the criminal justice system, but as a cost to individuals.

In 2009, a fine was the most serious sentence for a total of 369 convicted spousal violence offenders. Brzozowski (2004) records the average fine amount in spousal violence cases to be the equivalent of $428 in 2009. Applying the number of fines to the average fine amount gives an estimated net benefit of $157,965 to the correctional system.

3.1.5.5 Total economic impact on correctional services

In sum, the total economic impact of spousal violence in 2009 on the Canadian correctional system is estimated at $101,501,325.

Correctional services costs – SV against females $88,407,960
Correctional services costs – SV against males $13,093,366
Total Criminal Justice System Costs, Correctional Services $101,501,325
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