In 1990 the Winnipeg Provincial Court launched the Winnipeg Family Violence Court (FVC), which was the first court in Canada to develop a specialized response to family violence cases. This court hears all cases involving individuals who are in a trust, dependency or kinship relationship with their assailant. The FVC hears cases involving a criminal offense against an intimate partner, as well as cases of child abuse, child pornography, and elder abuse. In 2004, the Provincial Court Chief Judge introduced the ‘Front End Project’ which removes all administrative matters from the court room and commits all components of the system, including police, prosecutors and defense lawyers, to meet prescribed time frames to submit essential information so that cases may proceed to court. The purpose of this study was to apply a “quality of justice” framework to the evaluation of the impact of the Front End Project on cases heard in the Winnipeg FVC. The five benchmarks for assessing quality of justice were: early intervention, timely resolution of cases, vigorous prosecution for serious offenders, greater sensitivity, and rehabilitation of offenders.
Final Report on an Evaluation of the Manitoba Front End Project – http://umanitoba.ca/centres/resolve/media/FINAL_REPORT_June_for_the_Maxbell_Foundation.pdf
The results from three points of inquiry, including court data , key informant interviews, and women’s assessment of their experience with the criminal justice system, all suggest that there were no negative consequences in court processing of family violence cases as a result of the introduction of the Front End Project. Further, while administrative management was not the focus of this study, interviewee comments revealed a substantial increase in job satisfaction for many key court personnel. This report concludes that the administrative processes introduced with the Front End Project did not negatively impact on the quality of justice and, in a number of circumstances, contributed to its improvement.