Toronto Star

Nov. 9, 02:00 EDT

Justice system failed: Officer

Hadley should have been detained before trial, inquest told

Nicholas Keung
Toronto Star

Tannis Toohey/TORONTO STAR
FRUSTRATED: Constable Cheryl Carter of Durham Region police stands outside coroners court in Toronto yesterday.
The Durham police officer who charged Ralph Hadley with stalking and harassing his wife Gillian felt that the justice system failed the woman by letting him out of jail before his trial, an inquest has heard.

Constable Cheryl Carter said the court should have detained Hadley for repeatedly violating conditions of a peace bond and a bail order that prohibited him from communicating with his estranged wife and children.

The court's action "reinforces the behaviour (of the abuser) because the charges are not taken seriously. It reinforces the abuser's distorted beliefs in domestic violence," she testified yesterday at the inquest into the couple's June 20, 2000 murder-suicide.

To stress the seriousness of Hadley's offence, Carter had added a charge of criminal harassment on top of breaching a bail order, and warned in a court file that she was strongly opposed to his release.

Hadley was arrested on Feb. 25, 2000, and released by justice of the peace Brenna Brown three days later. On June 20, he sneaked into Gillian's Hillcrest Rd. home in Pickering and shot her to death before taking his own life.

"This is not a regular breach. Any breach of a court order should be taken seriously. I don't care what it is. It's a slap on the face of all of us," said Carter, a mother of five and a homemaker before joining the police force six years ago.

Carter, who has taken extensive training in domestic abuse on her own initiative, said she was not summoned for Hadley's bail hearing or she would have tried to convince the court to send him for a psychiatric assessment and provide him with possible treatment while in custody.

She agreed to suggestions by Geri Sanson, lawyer for the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, that any prosecutors who looked at the case file would have recognized it as a "potentially lethal situation."

"A crown should be more so than a police officer to appreciate (the seriousness of the charges). ... That's why we have the court, that's why we have the police," Carter said.

"Domestic violence should be taken more seriously. We need to be better educated."

A lot of people in the law-enforcement business and justice system, including some police officers, still don't understand domestic violence, Carter said, and they remain reluctant to take it seriously.

"As far as learning and understanding this, they have got it or they don't have it. But it doesn't mean you can't learn about it if you want to," she explained to reporters outside the hearing room. "You can supply the training, but if you don't want to intrinsically take it in, (your attitude) is not going to change."

Carter said she was distraught when she learned of the Hadleys' tragic deaths, and she still wonders if there are things she could have done differently to save Gillian.

"I think we all take a piece of this with us."

The inquest continues Tuesday.

Copyright © 1996-2001. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited.