Offender Profile and Recidivism among Domestic Violence Offenders in Ontario

2. Purpose

The purpose of this study is to compare the offence characteristics, criminal history, and recidivism of a sample of offenders who have been convicted in Ontario of a domestic violence offence in a jurisdiction where there is a Domestic Violence Court (DVC) with a sample of offenders convicted in court jurisdictions without a DVC. The study also examines the influence of criminal history as well as spousal conviction and sentence characteristics on the likelihood of recidivism.

3. Methodology

Using the Domestic Violence Evaluation System (DOVES)[3] from the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario, a sample of 500 offenders who were convicted of a domestic violence offence between January 1 and December 31, 2001, in an Ontario DVC [4],[5],[6] were randomly selected. The names and birthdates of these 500 offenders were consequently sent to the Criminal Records Information Services of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) for Fingerprint Service (FPS) number identification. When an FPS number was identified for these 500 offenders, a Criminal Convictions, Conditional and Absolute Discharges and Related Information form (also known as a "fingerprint form," "criminal record" or "CPIC record") was retrieved and sent to the Research and Statistics Division, Department of Justice Canada, for data entry and analysis.

In order to obtain a random sample of 500 offenders who were convicted of a domestic violence offence between January 1 and December 31, 2001, in court jurisdictions without a DVC[7], [8], the Volunteer Screening Initiative (VSI), which is a subset of the RCMP's Criminal Records Synopsis (CRS), [9] was used to identify domestic violence offenders. The VSI identifies certain convictions, such as child sexual offences (including information on the victim's age and gender), sex-related offences, spousal assault, other family violence, and whether there was a publication ban on the fingerprint form. After identifying a random sample of offenders with the "spousal assault" identifier, a verification of court location was done in order to select an offender who appeared in another Ontario provincial court and not a DVC. If a randomly selected offender had appeared in a DVC instead of another Ontario provincial court, another offender was randomly selected, and the court location was again cross-referenced to the list of operational DVCs in 2001. When a total of 500 domestic violence offenders were randomly selected and an FPS number identified, a Criminal Convictions, Conditional and Absolute Discharges and Related Information form (also known as a "fingerprint form," "criminal record" or "CPIC record") was retrieved for these offenders and sent to the Research and Statistics Division, Department of Justice Canada, for data entry and analysis.

In order to facilitate the reading of this report, the 2001 index offence for all 1,000 offenders will be defined as the "index domestic violence conviction" throughout this report.

The year 2001 was selected as a basis for this analysis because it was the year where a significant number of Domestic Violence Court Programs were fully operational, meaning that they were running both the Early Intervention and Coordinated Prosecution programs, in a significant number of court locations in the province. The criminal history for all 1,000 offenders was recorded from its starting point up until December 31, 2003, in an Access database form and analyzed using Statistical Analysis System (SAS) software.

Recidivism is defined in this report as at least one reconviction for any criminal offence after the index domestic violence conviction. A period of two years after the index domestic violence conviction was examined for each offender to determine recidivism. This was considered by experts in the Research and Statistics Division to be a sufficient period of time to measure the occurrence of recidivism among these offenders.

In order to facilitate the analysis for the current and prior convictions and reconvictions, the most serious conviction (MSC) was created using the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics' (CCJS) Seriousness Index.[10] The MSC variable reflected the seriousness of the physical harm inflicted and was categorized accordingly. A total of 42 MSC were included in this analysis.[11]

In addition to the individual MSC variable, broader offence categories were created to analyze prior convictions and reconvictions data. These were:

Spousal Violence
any violent incident for which a "spousal" offence designation was recorded on the VSI subset of the Criminal Convictions, Conditional and Absolute Discharges and Related Information form from the RCMP;
Other Violent
any violent incident for which a "spousal" offence designation was not recorded on the VSI subset of the Criminal Convictions, Conditional and Absolute Discharges and Related Information form from the RCMP;
Administrative Offences
includes Breach of Recognizance/Undertaking, Breach of Probation, Failure to Appear, Failure to Comply with Probation Order;
Property Offences
includes Break and Enter, Fraud, Theft over and under, Motor Vehicle Theft, Possession of Stolen Goods, and Trespass at Night;
Other Criminal Code Offences
includes Arson, Escape Custody, Weapons Offences, Bail Violations, Unlawfully at Large, Mischief, Obstruct Peace Officer, Disturbing the Peace, Impaired Driving, and Other Traffic Incidents;
Drugs and Other Federal Statutes
includes all drug offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (includes trafficking, importation and production, possession and production) as well as all other federal statutes (i.e., Income Tax Act, Customs Act, Competition Act, etc.).

Finally, a seriousness index which ranks offences according to the potential harm to victims was created for this analysis in consultation with experts in the Research and Statistics Division. The four categories are:

Serious Violence
includes First Degree Murder, Second Degree Murder, Manslaughter, Robbery, Sexual Assault with Weapon/Indecent Assault, Aggravated Sexual Assault, Kidnapping, Forcible Confinement, Aggravated Assault, Sexual Interference, Sexual Assault, Abduction, Assault with Weapon/Causing Bodily Harm, and Infanticide;
Violence
includes Assault, Assault Police/Peace Officer, Other Sexual, Other Assault, and Other Violent;
Threat of Violence
includes Criminal Harassment [12] and Uttering Threats; and
No Violence
includes Administrative Offences, Property Offences, Drug Offences, Other Criminal Code Offences, and Other Federal Statutes.

The Most Serious Sentence (MSS) variable was also created by experts in the Research and Statistics Division by using the severity of the sentence. The MSS index was as follows: prison, conditional sentence, probation, suspended sentence, fine, community service, restitution/compensation, prohibition, conditional discharge, and absolute discharge.

Data will be presented in five sections in this report. In Section 4, offender, offence, and sentence characteristics for all offenders in the sample will be presented by court type. Section 5 will focus on descriptive data and chi square results to show what variables have an influence on the likelihood of recidivism, and in Section 6, the same data will be presented by court type. In Section 7, Pearson correlation coefficients will be presented to examine the variables that have the strongest relationship with recidivism. And in Section 8, logistic regression results will show which variables have the most influence on recidivism, after controlling for a selection of variables included in the model.


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