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Published on Thursday, March 23, 2017

Police Board approves sex assault review

Oakville mayor confident Halton will lead the way after review of Halton sexual assault cases

Police Board approves sex assault review
Police Board Chair Mayor Rob Burton
Police Board Chair Burton speaking at police function
Halton Police Chair Mayor Rob Burton, at left, speaking at a police function

By Nathan Howes, Oakville Beaver
Oakville Mayor Rob Burton is optimistic a recently-launched Halton Regional Police Services (HRPS) Board review of sexual assault cases in this region will see Halton lead the way in how police in Ontario conduct such investigations.

“Rather than copying somebody else, we will build on everybody else and have a Halton solution. People will talk about the Halton model. That is our goal,” Burton said.Following media coverage of Halton and other police services’ handling of sexual assault cases, and after Halton police service’s own investigation, the local board has now initiated its own review into the matter.

A high rate (30 per cent) of ‘unfounded’ sexual assaults in Halton was recently revealed in a Globe and Mail report, which prompted an internal police audit of the handling of sexual assault cases in Halton in the year 2016.

The province then stepped in and asked all Ontario police services boards, including that in Halton, to conduct their own reviews. The direction was given in a letter from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to the boards.

The intent is for the board and police to work with community and justice partners to ensure victims of sexual assault are provided “a timely and dignified response, the best support possible from our police service, and that the process is comprehensive, fair and respectful.”

Burton, who chairs the Halton police services board, hopes the review and eventual report will result in a “world-leading” approach on the issue, he said Thursday, March 23 at the board’s monthly meeting.

“Rather than copying somebody else, we will build on everybody else and have a Halton solution. People will talk about the Halton model. That is our goal,” said Burton.

The Halton review will be led by Julie Moscato, police services board executive director, who will consult with local community and justice partners on the inquiry, leading to a report to be before the board by the end of June.

Phase one of the two-part review is an information-gathering stage that involves research, jurisdictional scanning, phone and in-person interviews with experts in the field.

Information on current police practices, training and victim support will be gathered from the HRPS and its Victim Services and Child Abuse and Sexual Assault units.

Information will be gathered and consultations will take place with Statistics Canada, the Ontario government, Women’s Law Project in Philadelphia, P.A., and Brantford Police Service, among other service providers.

Phase two will involve a review team whose members will discuss matters relating to sexual assault investigations, with the aim of providing the best support possible to victims.

After setting terms of reference, the team will hear a Halton police presentation on current practices, training and victim support.

Comprised of Moscato and agencies on the Halton Violence Prevention Council, the team will also explore opportunities for improvements and multi-sector collaborative work.

In accordance with the police services board’s role under the Police Act, the group will review opportunities to enhance the Halton board’s policy on sexual assault investigations; maximize learning and information exchange opportunities for police officers and other Halton-based victim service providers; and connect with experts in the field.

It will also consider alternative delivery models for the handling of sexual assault investigations, and alternate classifications for sexual assault cases.

The review team will provide a report and recommendations to the Halton Regional Police Services Board for consideration.

The seven-member panel exists to provide civilian oversight of Halton police and is a provincially-mandated legal entity, which operates independently from regional or municipal council.

It is the board’s responsibility to ensure Halton residents receive adequate and effective police services in accordance with policing standards issued by the province.
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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