Many domestic assault offenders choosing therapy: province
Domestic Violence Court opened in Sydney in June
More than half the people charged in domestic assault cases in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality are choosing to take part in a therapy program, say officials with the Department of Justice.
The Domestic Violence Court, which has been sitting in an existing courtroom at the Sydney Justice Centre since June, is a two-year pilot project involving offenders who accept responsibility for their actions.
"I feel our numbers are excellent to start with. It's been sitting now since the end of June and we have had approximately 129 eligible cases go through the court," said Valerie Jewkes, the supervisor of the Domestic Violence Court.
"Approximately 53 per cent of those individuals have shown an interest in finding out more about the program and are initially interested in participating in it."
If an offender pleads guilty and wants to get the help, the person goes through an assessment about their suitability for the specialized court.
If the person is deemed suitable for the program, they attend educational sessions lasting five or 10 weeks, depending on the extent of the violence. There is also a 25-week therapeutic program.
Jewkes said many of the accused can see the benefits of participating in the program.
"It's an opportunity for them to improve their relationship with their partners, relationships with their children," she told CBC News.
"It would also be taken into consideration during sentencing. If they do participate they would be required to plead guilty and at the completion of their programming, then they would be sentenced accordingly."
Jewkes said depending on the extent of the assault, a person who goes through the program could still be given an additional jail sentence.
The aim of the program is to prevent future violence.