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‘We have a lot of work to do’: Justice minister seeks review in Serrece Winter case

Premier, ministers react to domestic abuse case

2 min read
caption Mark Furey, Nova Scotia's Minister of Justice.
Colin Slark (file photo)

Justice Minister Mark Furey says he has requested a review of the case of a woman who was arrested for not showing up to testify at her ex-partner’s assault trial.

Furey spoke about the case after Thursday’s cabinet meeting.

“Specific to these circumstances I’ve asked for a review. I need to know what my authority is,” he said.

On Monday, CBC News reported the story of Serrece Winter. Winter worried about the repercussions of testifying, and on Nov. 20, 2019, Winter was arrested, jailed and restrained as a consequence.

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Winter’s former boyfriend was facing 14 charges, including choking, assault causing bodily harm, assault, and unlawful confinement, the CBC reported.

“Why would this individual choose not to appear in court?” Furey said to reporters. “She fears for her life.”

Winter is now facing an assault charge for allegedly kicking a booking officer in the leg when she was arrested and put in jail, CBC reported. 

Furey said there are too many incidents of domestic violence. He said the only reason this story came to light was because Winter is now in court charged with assault.

“I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m not giving up,” he said. “The circumstances of last week tell me we have a lot of work to do.”

Meaningful followup needed

Archie Kaiser, a professor at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law, said Furey can review this case, but the question is what will emerge from this review that can result in “productive and progressive changes.”

Kaiser said Furey would have to look into the provincial policy of spousal and partner violence to see if it was followed and if the victim was supported.

Kaiser said he hopes there’s a meaningful followup on this case and not just statements to the media.

‘Completely unacceptable’

Premier Stephen McNeil also talked about the case on Thursday. He said too many victims of domestic violence are scarred from their perpetrator.

The Winter case “shows the lack of understanding by so many people of the terror of this terrible, terrible crime,” McNeil said.

How the system responded to Winter was “completely unacceptable,” he said, adding there are still questions that need answering. He said our legal system needs to become more “compassionate and understanding.”

McNeil said we need to recognize the “tremendous courage” that women have in this province to come forward. Until the system changes, he said, we’re going to see perpetrators getting away with domestic violence.

Kelly Regan, minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act, called the case “deeply disturbing.”

Regan said there may be good reasons why a victim doesn’t want to come forward and we have to respect that.

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About the author

Talia Meade

Student journalist from Ottawa. Interested in videography, creative nonfiction and politics.

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