Quebec coroner recommends more training for police dealing with domestic violence

MONTREAL — A coroner is recommending more training for police officers who intervene in domestic violence cases following the murder of a Quebec woman by her ex-boyfriend when she returned home to retrieve her belongings.

Daphne Huard-Boudreault, 18, was killed on March 22, 2017 in Mont-St-Hilaire, Que.

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Anthony Pratte-Lops, 22, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in May 2019 and was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for 18 years.

A few days before the murder, Huard-Boudreault had ended a relationship with Pratte-Lops, whom she described to a relative as controlling, possessive and jealous.

According to coroner Stephanie Gamache's report released on Monday, Huard-Boudreault went to the police station but chose not to file a complaint against Pratte-Lops, despite being told his actions amounted to criminal harassment.

He'd stolen her phone earlier that day and was posting to her Facebook page without permission.

She also said she didn't want to be accompanied by police to retrieve her belongings because she believed Pratte-Lops wasn't home.

A police officer did follow anyway, as protocol dictated, but arrived a few minutes too late — Pratte-Lops had been lying in wait and fatally stabbed Huard-Boudreault.

Gamache concludes that a reminder of the behaviour that characterizes domestic violence "would have possibly allowed the police to detect signs of domination by Ms. Huard-Boudreault's ex-partner even if, on the morning of March 22, 2017, she is calm, has no apparent injuries and does not want to press charges against her ex-partner, despite the latter's actions that show he does not accept their break-up."

In many instances, being emotionally involved in a relationship prevents a victim from appreciating the potential for danger, Gamache wrote. "These victims have difficulty validating their emotions, and their self-esteem is shaken because of the acts of their attackers," she said.

Gamache said while police officers are well versed in domestic violence cases, more training could help them better identify situations of risk.

Officers have the tools, but continuing education can only help in improving response. She recommended the Public Security Department ensure that domestic violence cases are being adequately addressed by all police forces in the province.

"Domestic violence is a complex and important public health problem that affects all of society, regardless of the age of the couples involved or even the stage of relationships," Gamache wrote.

She said she was surprised to find that the 18-24 and 25-29 age groups had the most victims of intimate partner violence. Among her recommendations is that the provincial government create an awareness campaign specifically targeting adolescents.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2020.

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