“If someone loves you, it should feel like they love you.”
— Quotation, source unknown, spotted on the blog of Michigan author Wanda S. Maxey
A survivor of domestic abuse I spoke to this week is determined to act as an advocate for equality and victims’ rights whenever and however she can.
She’s worried about her security and asked not to be identified by her real name. She’s been through the court system and the man who beat her was sentenced, but the fear and horrible memories linger on.
Still, “Kathleen” is adamant that her voice will not be silenced by fear.
She’s particularly troubled by a matter currently before the courts — Trevor Pardy wants the province to pay for a private lawyer, beyond the Legal Aid rate. Pardy is accused of murdering his former girlfriend, Triffie Wadman, on Oct. 1, 2011. The wrangling and legal arguments have repeatedly delayed the start of his trial.
It’s been more than two years since Wadman was shot on a
St. John’s street, and her family and friends have had to endure the stress of waiting for the trial to begin.
Kathleen says her concerns are not about the Pardy case per se, but rather any case in which the victim’s loved ones — who in this case have already been victimized by crime — are being revictimized by having to go through a prolonged and painful process, while the accused haggles over lawyer’s fees.
“I believe that everyone should be given a fair trial and that they are innocent until proven guilty and they are entitled access to representation,” she wrote via email, “but when courts are tied up with unnecessary delays and hearings, justice is being delayed, not served. Mr. Pardy chose to fire his lawyer last year, a day before his murder trial was set to begin. Since then no new trial date has been set. To have this matter of lawyer’s fees before the courts instead of a murder trial is a waste of the court’s time and a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
She feels a dangerous precedent could be set.
“Is this what families and victims have to look forward to?” she asked. “We already have a very low reporting of violent crime, sexual assaults. Incidents like this are not going to encourage anyone. … The fact that he can drag this on for so long has nothing to do with bringing justice forward for the victim or the family of the victim. … It’s a telltale sign of a system being abused.”
Pardy, no doubt, wants to secure the best representation he can, but the long, drawn-out process must be difficult on the victim’s family and perhaps on his own.
The argument for a higher-priced, private lawyer also casts a shadow on the Legal Aid system, suggesting it is incapable of providing him with a solid defence.
But Legal Aid is mandated by legislation to ensure that “services to the public are consistent and of the highest quality.”
The fact that accused murderer David Folker is currently being quite ably represented in a St. John’s court by Legal Aid lawyers should be evidence enough of that.
Kathleen suggests that if an accused is entitled to Legal Aid, there should be no option of turning it down and sending taxpayers the bill for a private lawyer’s higher fees.
“I don’t understand why (an accused should be) entitled to special treatment … or why the system would allow special treatment,” she said.
“In my own situation, if my ex had dragged this out I would have lost my bloody mind. It would have broken me over and over again. … The system should be there to help the victim (and their families) through their journey, as well.”
Kathleen encourages victims of violence — women and men — to let their voices be heard and to share their experiences.
“To all the families and friends of victims of violence, all I can say is stay strong,” she wrote. “Know that people are thinking of you and that you do have support behind you. And know that people, like myself, are taking notice of things that need to change and are speaking out … even if we have to do it anonymously to protect ourselves from future violence. …
“May justice one day be served for Triffie, Ann Marie Shirran, Rehtaeh Parsons and all the countless other victims of violence that reside in our province and in our country.”
Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.