A week after an Ontario Court judge found her former boyfriend guilty of assaulting her, Toronto criminal defence lawyer Kathryn Wells says the way the police community treats domestic violence is “troubling” when the accused is also an officer.
“Being involved in a case where the accused is a police officer [was] interesting,” says Wells following the finding of guilt on Jan. 11 against her ex-partner, Toronto police officer Jason Peacock. The court found Peacock guilty of one count of assault and another of mischief.
On Feb. 1, a separate but related matter will be in court involving charges against Peacock for failure to comply with conditions barring him from communicating with Wells directly or indirectly. One of the charges accuses Peacock of “compelling Kathryn Wells to provide police with a new statement . . . which would nullify the charges, contrary to the Criminal Code.”
According to a report in the Toronto Star on the assault case, Wells described a confrontation on Christmas Eve in 2010 during which Peacock began to smash wine glasses, damaged her kitchen, and knocked holes in her wall after she told him to leave her apartment. The incident caused damages of $4,000.
Wells also said Peacock shook her violently by the shoulders, according to the Star. The 40-year-old officer is awaiting his sentencing proceedings on March 15.
Speaking about the case, Wells tells Law Times she was disappointed that the police community stood behind Peacock.
“Setting aside the investigators directly involved in this case, who were fabulous, given that the police association funded [Peacock’s] defence . . . to me that sends a message that I’m not sure if they doubted me,” she says.
“I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a lawyer, and a criminal lawyer at that or because I’m a woman.”
Wells notes she was upset that “a very senior police officer” gave testimony on Peacock’s good character.
“That was somewhat troubling,” she says.
“The inspector came in and said, ‘He’s great, he’s wonderful, he’s composed.’ This inspector never bothered to look at the evidence in the case. It’s somewhat troubling in terms of the way the broader police community views domestic violence when it’s a police officer accused.”
Wells adds that being on the other side of a criminal case has also made her better appreciate the position of victims and witnesses. “I’ve definitely seen the justice system from a different vantage point. It’s not easy to have your personal life under a microscope, you know, in court.
“I know that I’ve always had empathy for people who’ve gone through hard times and are victims of one thing or another but I do see things somewhat differently. I think I understand a little bit more clearly what people don’t understand.”
“It’s very difficult when you’re in that setting,” she adds, noting there was also the issue that she works in the courthouse and knows many people there.
For his part, Peacock described Wells as hysterical on the night of the confrontation and said that as a police officer, he felt it wouldn’t be safe to leave her alone in the apartment, the Star reported. He denied shaking her violently by the shoulders.
For victims of domestic violence, navigating the justice system can be an arduous process, says Wells.
“You know, here I am not only a lawyer but a defence lawyer, so I know the law, I’m educated, I’ve got great family support, and it was still difficult,” she says. “So I understand how hard it must be for all of those women who . . . you know, you don’t understand the system, you don’t have the support and the community. It’s a very difficult process.”