In this last round of research, I researched about the battered women that choose not to use the BWS defence. I will also give a quick answer to my inquiry question: What problems do women face when using the BWS defence in Canadian courts?
To begin with, many women fear being charged with murder if they loose in court (Sheehy, 2013, Chapter 4). That is because a person convicted of murder must be sentenced to “life imprisonment (25 years),” according to the Criminal Code. In the case of a second-degree murder conviction, the least amount of time they would have to spend in jail before being eligible for parole in ten years (Criminal Code, 1985, s. 745).
As a result, women “plead guilty to a lower charge,” instead of risking to use the BWS defence (Sheehy, 2013, Chapter 4). For example, Helen Naslund murdered her husband in 2011 after enduring years of being abused by him. Even though she could have argued she acted in self-defence, she pleaded guilty to manslaughter. Naslund received an 18-year sentence (Dawson, 2021).
In addition, many battered women choose not to go to trial because they are ashamed and terrified of talking about their horrific experiences of violence (Sheehy, 2013, Chapter 4). Battered women who were not willing to share their pain with strangers or risk extremely long sentences have pleaded guilty to other charges.
What problems do women face when using the BWS defence in Canadian courts? There has been significant improvement in the battered woman syndrome defence, but it is still not easily interpreted. In addition, many women who do not want to expose their battering experiences, but do not want to be convicted of murder, end up pleading guilty to lower charges.
In my opinion, amendments to self-defence laws have not been enough to address all the issues regarding the circumstances of battered women.
Criminal Code, RSC (1985) c C-46
Sheehy, E. A. (2013). Defending Battered Women on Trial: Lessons from the Transcripts (Law and Society) (3rd ed.). UBC Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/cls.2015.31
Dawson, T. (2021, August 13). Why “battered woman syndrome” is not a straightforward defence for women who kill. Nationalpost. https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/killings