Saturday, April 15, 2006

Press Clippings--Part XXXIX

A history of violence: courthouse can be useful resource for women: Criminal records are public; Do the research if you have fears about your partner, slain athlete's mother urges

By Katherine Wilton

The Gazette, April 12, 2006

After Martin Morin-Cousineau threatened to hurt Kelly-Anne Drummond's friends if she watched the 2003 Grey Cup game with them, her mother suggested she go to her local police station to find out whether he had a criminal record. After a brief visit to a station on the West Island, Drummond told her parents Morin-Cousineau had parking violations.

Privacy laws prevented the Montreal police from telling Drummond her boyfriend had been charged and acquitted of uttering death threats earlier that year, and that he was prevented from possessing weapons.

On Monday, a jury convicted Morin-Cousineau of stabbing Drummond to death in October 2004.

Drummond could have learned about Morin-Cousineau's previous run-ins with the law if she had made a trip to the Montreal courthouse, where anyone can access criminal or civil records."The court records are public," said Anne Proulx, director of the courthouse clerk's office in Montreal

Drummond's mother, Doreen Haddad-Drummond, said yesterday women who fear their partners might be violent should go to the court-house to see if they have criminal records.

In fact, Giovanni Diamente, who works at the information desk at the main courthouse in Old Montreal, said he is often asked by women whether it is possible to verify whether their partners have criminal records.

"That is 'the question' that we get here," Diamente said. "I get at least two requests a day."

Anyone seeking information on someone's criminal background is sent across the hall to the criminal court clerk's office, where staff members look up the information on a court computer and provide rudimentary explanations of what is in the file.

Other crimes, such as assault and drunk driving, may be handled by local municipal courts, which are also open to the public.

Martin Dufresne, who heads a group called Montreal Men Against Sexism, urged victims of conjugal violence to seek help immediately if they are threatened, because it is often their partners who end up killing them.

Last year, 14 out of 22 women who were murdered in Quebec were killed by a boyfriend, an ex-boyfriend or a member of their family. In 2004, 23 out of 30 women who were killed were attacked by a man they knew.

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