Criminal Justice Outcomes in Intimate and Non-intimate Partner Homicide Cases


3.3 Limitations

Because the focus in this study is on a single jurisdiction, it is not possible to explore variation across jurisdictions within the same province or variation in criminal justice outcomes across provinces. Research has shown that the treatment of individuals in a particular court may be influenced by the political, social and organizational context of that court (see Dixon, 1995, for a more detailed discussion). Therefore, the findings from this study cannot be generalized to Ontario or Canada because it is not known if the findings reported here will hold in other courts. However, during the past decade, Toronto has accounted for approximately one-tenth of the country’s homicides and about one-third of all homicides in the province of Ontario (see Appendix B). Thus, it is expected that some of the general patterns found in this study may reflect, to some degree, provincial and national trends.

A second limitation stems from the focus on homicide cases only. Homicide is frequently used in research as a reliable indicator of or barometer for trends and patterns in non-lethal forms of violence (Gabor et al., 2002). However, when examining criminal justice responses to violence, homicide cases may not be as reliable or as valid an indicator for measuring responses to other types of criminal non-lethal violence. One reason for this is that homicides differ from all other types of violence because the victim is dead when the case enters the criminal justice system. Thus, it may be that other factors come into play when the victim is present to testify in court or when the victim’s willingness to participate in the criminal process is an issue for criminal justice actors.

Finally, while this study examines several criminal justice outcomes in an attempt to capture the sequential nature of criminal justice decision-making, a number of earlier decision outcomes were not available for analysis. For example, decisions made by police officers early in the process may have implications for later decisions by court actors, particularly prosecutors. While it may be that the effect of these decisions will be less evident in cases of homicide because charges are usually always laid (where an accused has been identified) and cases are generally prosecuted, examining the effect of police decisions is crucial for other types of violent crime. The stages of the criminal process that are examined in this study are described below, followed by a discussion of the key independent and control variables.

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