Civil restraining order application processing in the British Columbia provincial court : an institutional ethnography




Adams, Jill Louise

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Although the civil restraining order is the most commonly sought legal initiative to combat intimate partner violence in British Columbia, no known qualitative research has assessed the application process or the enforcement of the orders in BC. Previous quantitative research presents mixed findings and fails to provide an in-depth analysis of how legal and institutional work is organized, and in turn, organizes the process. This thesis employs Dorothy Smith's institutional ethnography to critically examine civil restraining order application processing in the BC Provincial Court. A combination of interviews, observations, and textual analyses contribute to the mapping of the way formalized texts regulate the different phases of practitioner's work. Particular attention is paid to disjunctures between battered women's experiential knowledge and what becomes formally known to practitioners who manage her case. This research found that abused women's lived experience with violence is transformed and shaped into accounts in which her safety needs disappear. Court practitioners become immersed in text-mediated activity within a legal ruling apparatus that emphasizes timely completion of a large quantity of cases, with little or no commitment to quality solutions. In the same effort to preserve limited police time and resources, one policy directs judges to add a police enforcement clause to only a few of the most serious cases. All restraining orders that do not have this clause are currently unenforceable.



restraining orders, British Columbia, abused women, law