Tribunal to rule if Crown policy is anti-male
By Gerry Bellett

The Vancouver Sun
20 August 2004

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal will hear the case of a man who claims the Crown counsel's office is gender-biased and routinely discriminates against men when laying domestic violence charges.

Scott Crockford was charged with assault after a fight with his common-law wife on March 16, 2003.

He claimed she was the aggressor, but police and the Crown agreed Crockford should be charged with assault. The charges were ultimately stayed.

Crockford's complaint to the tribunal was accepted and a two-day hearing will commence Aug. 30.

In the written complaint, Crockford says police and Crown counsel follow an official policy that is gender-biased.

"Apparently there exists a mandate that is based on gender in regards to men's violence against women," he wrote. "As good as the intentions may have been, it has opened the door for legal discrimination against men and in my case enables women to use violence against me without fear of repercussion."

Crockford says he suffers from physical and mental disabilities that made him physically weaker than his spouse, who he says was the aggressor during the fight.

The hearing will proceed despite objections from the B.C. attorney-general's ministry that the tribunal has no jurisdiction to examine the discretion of Crown counsel in laying charges.

Tribunal member Tonie Beharrell dismissed the ministry's objection that the exercise of "prosecutorial discretion is immune from court or tribunal review as a matter of policy and constitutional imperative."

Relying on statements by the Supreme Court of Canada regarding the role of human rights legislation, Beharrell said: "I find that there is a strong public interest in the application of the [Human Rights] Code which, in any given case, may outweigh the rationale for deference towards decisions made in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion."

The ministry argued policy played no part in the decision to lay charges and that the Crown counsel who recommended charges didn't take the gender of the parties into account. Further, a review of the case showed no evidence of malice, bad faith or that the sex of Crockford or the complainant were an issue, the ministry said.

But Beharrell had "some concerns" with the assertion that the role of the policy was immaterial because the decision to approve a charge was not discriminatory.

"In this case it is clear that the complaint includes an allegation of systemic discrimination relating to the policy. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the mandate or policy is gender-based and therefore discriminatory as it is based on assumptions that men will always be the aggressors and women always the victim in situations of domestic violence.

"Thus, the complaint includes the allegation that the approval of the assault charge is part of a larger pattern of behaviour: that is, the alleged facts were the result of a systemic policy."