Family violence draws lighter sentences

July. 6, 2004. 11:12 AM


OTTAWA Family members convicted of most forms of violent crimes against spouses, children and seniors were less likely than other violent offenders to get a prison term, Statistics Canada says.

The agency analyzed police and court records from 1997-98 to 2001-02 in 18 urban areas in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta for its 2004 report entitled Family Violence in Canada.

It found that spouses were less likely to receive prison terms for almost all types of violent crimes, with the exception of criminal harassment, also known as stalking.

"Of those convicted of criminal harassment, one-third of spouses received a prison term, compared with one-quarter of offenders who were not convicted of spousal violence."

Family members convicted of physical violence against children received less harsh sentences, compared with cases not involving family members.

"But the opposite was true in convicted cases of sexual assault.

"Family members convicted of sexually assaulting children received harsher sentences than others convicted of sexually assaulting a child to whom they were unrelated," the study found.

Further, parents convicted of sexually assaulting their children were more likely than other family members to receive a prison sentence."