Offender Profile and Recidivism among Domestic Violence Offenders in Ontario

Acknowledgements

The author would like to acknowledge the contributions of the following individuals from the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario: Monty Laskin, Diane Nannarone, Barbara Kane, Tom McCallum, Norine Nathanson, Corinna Kitchen, Jean Lindsay, Barb Bove Dawson and Daniel Mark, as well as Sergeant Dennis Riou from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). This project would not have been possible without their assistance.

The author would also like to acknowledge the contributions of the following colleagues in the Department of Justice Canada: Kwing Hung, Jeff Latimer, Susan McDonald, Steve Mihorean, Anna Paletta, Fernando Mata, Janet Graham, Suzan Mansour, and Aubry McGibbon.

Highlights

  • The purpose of this study is to compare offence characteristics, criminal history, and recidivism of offenders who have been convicted of a domestic violence offence in an Ontario Domestic Violence Court (DVC) with a sample of offenders convicted in other Ontario courts. It will also examine the influence of criminal history as well as spousal conviction and sentence characteristics on the likelihood of recidivism.
  • Offenders who appeared in a DVC were generally older than offenders who appeared in other Ontario courts. They were more likely to have been convicted, for the index domestic violence conviction, of less serious violence and were more likely to be sentenced to prison. However, the median prison sentence was shorter compared to offenders who appeared in other Ontario courts.
  • Similar proportions of offenders from both court types had prior convictions on their criminal record and had been convicted of prior violent offences. However, offenders who appeared in a DVC were less likely to have a prior spousal violence conviction.
  • Offenders who appeared in a DVC were more likely than offenders who appeared in other Ontario courts to have received a prison term as the most serious sentence for prior convictions.
  • Offenders who appeared in a DVC were less likely to be reconvicted of a serious violent offence or of a spousal offence. They were, however, more likely to receive a prison sentence for the reconviction.
  • Time elapsed between the index domestic violence conviction and the reconviction was slightly shorter for offenders who appeared in a DVC.
  • Gender, age, existence of prior criminal record, seriousness and sentence for prior conviction, sentence and prison sentence length for the index domestic violence conviction, total number of lifetime convictions and of charges without convictions all appear to play a statistically significant role in the likelihood of recidivism.
  • The findings presented in this report did not demonstrate the influence of a DVC on reducing the overall likelihood of recidivism. However, offenders who appeared in a DVC were less likely than offenders who appeared in other Ontario courts to be reconvicted of a spousal or other violent offence. Also, they were more likely to receive a prison sentence for the index domestic violence conviction and for the reconviction.
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