Alberta to introduce legislation that would allow access to partner's criminal records
TORONTO -- Legislation is being introduced in Alberta this fall to bring a British law to the province that would give people access to their partner’s criminal records in hopes it will help prevent domestic violence.
Krista Boechler hopes the law will be passed after her friend Dianne Denovan was brutally beaten by her then-boyfriend Michael Cole for nearly four hours. She spent several weeks in the hospital recovering from the violent attack.
Denovan met Cole online more than half a year prior to the attack and did not know about his past. Documents from the parole board revealed Cole had a history of violence dating back to 1987 that included convictions for assault, uttering threats, assault causing bodily harm, and other domestic incidents, according to an online post by Boechler as part of her petition to bring “Clare’s Law” to the province.
Photos of Denovan taken after she was beaten document injuries that include broken bones, a broken jaw, significant cuts to her face, and bleeding in the brain.
“I feel like I'll never be over it, you know. Never,” said Denovan, who continues to be haunted by the painful memories. She believes Clare’s Law could save others from her experience.
“We should be able to access people's prior violent history.”
“Clare’s Law” is named after Clare Wood, who was strangled and set on fire in her home at the hands of her ex-boyfriend in 2009. Despite making several police complaints, she was never informed of his history of violence against women, which included kidnapping at knifepoint. The law was introduced across England and Wales in 2014.
Some critics argue it does not help in cases where the perpetrator has no prior record, while others raise concerns around privacy.
Canada’s Department of Justice discusses some of the concerns as part of a report on family violence cases, and said that timely information sharing between various sectors can be critical to averting tragedy, and that there are ways to prioritize safety without compromising privacy concerns.
Saskatchewan became the first Canadian province to pass a similar law in May, called the Interpersonal Violence Disclosure Protocol Act, which would allow the police to disclose a person’s criminal history to their partner under certain circumstances. It has yet to come into effect as lawmakers work out the details.
Cole, Denovan’s former boyfriend, was convicted of aggravated assault and served more than two years in jail before being released last November. He disappeared shortly after his release and was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant as a high-risk offender before he turned himself in weeks later.
Cole now lives in a half-way house in Calgary, but Boechler said the disappearance reopened emotional scars for Denovan.
“I felt her panic and I felt the PTSD really coming into play again,” she said.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has previously pledged to pass some form of Clare’s Law.
“Experiences like Dianne’s are exactly why we will keep our word to pass Clare’s Law, to allow Albertans access criminal records of potentially abusive partners,” Kenney wrote on Twitter last month.