Inventory of Spousal Violence Risk Assessment Tools Used in Canada

5. Description of Tools, Investigative Checklists and Protocols (continued)

5.11 Domestic Violence Police Investigation Checklist

Municipal police departments and the RCMP in Prince Edward Island currently use the Domestic Violence Police Investigation Checklist.

The checklist was developed by a committee comprised of representatives from all police agencies in the province, Victim Services, Court Services, Crown attorneys and a provincial family violence coordinator. The committee oversees the Victims of Family Violence Act[10] and coordinates police training related to family violence.

This checklist is a form completed by the investigating officer and is reviewed by the police supervisor. Both mechanisms are in place to ensure comprehensive police investigations of domestic violence incidents. Information regarding the accused, available evidence and notification of victim services is included in the form. The development of the investigative checklist involved the review of similar checklists and was tailored to meet the particular needs of this area.

5.12 Domestic Violence Supplementary Report Form (DVSRF)

The Domestic Violence Supplementary Report Form (DVSRF) was created by the Ministry of the Solicitor General and the Ontario Provincial Police (O.P.P.) Behavioural Science Section, in response to the May-Iles Inquest.[11]

Police services throughout Ontario have been provided with this investigative checklist which includes a list of 19 risk factors, to be administered by front-line investigating officers in domestic violence cases. Supervisors are required to sign off on all forms and are consulted on high risk cases regarding next steps and established protocols.

Some of the identified risk factors include past history of violence, access to firearms, sexual abuse and bizarre and unexplained behaviour. Once an interviewis completed, the Crown examines the results which assist in informing decisions on bail issuance for individuals accused of domestic violence.

5.13 Factors to Consider When Domestic Violence Safety Planning

This tool is available for use by all government-funded victim support workers in British Columbia including victim service workers, transition house workers, stopping the violence counsellors, children who witness abuse counsellors and outreach/multicultural outreach workers.

The tool provides a summary of the risk and safety factors that have been associated with an increased likelihood of future violence in relationships or are of particular concern for support workers in domestic violence cases. The resource was developed to assist support workers in safety planning and is consistent with tools used by police in domestic violence cases, including the Summary of Domestic Violence Risk Factors job aid and the B-SAFER risk assessment tool. A primary goal of the tool was to ensure that support workers had a common and shared understanding of key risk factors in domestic violence cases with other justice and child protection system partners.

The tool is part of an online domestic violence safety planning course that has been offered since spring 2012. The resource is divided into five major sections: relationship factors (including status of relationship and child-related concerns); abuser factors (including violence in the current relationship, abuser history and weapons/firearms); victim safety factors; system factors and other considerations (if applicable).

http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/victimservices/training/docs/factors-to-consider.pdf (date accessed: October 22, 2013)

5.14 Family Violence Investigation Report (FVIR)

The Family Violence Investigation Report was developed by the Family Violence Police Advisory Committee[12] in the province of Alberta. As part of the developmental phase of this form, many different risk assessment tools were reviewed. It was piloted in 14 sites across Alberta between January 2007 and May 2007. The pilot sites were comprised of three municipal police services, one First Nations police service and ten RCMP detachments in the province.

The form was designed as an investigative/case management tool. The 19-item report form was created to assist police departments in the province of Alberta in a number of areas: gathering critical information within 12 hours of the incident, assisting in the writing of a police report, planning victim safety and raising awareness of front-line officers on risks associated with suspect history, complainant’s perception of personal safety and future violence and information on relationship background.

This checklist is intended to address questions and information required for bail hearings, provide information for sentencing considerations and provide Crown prosecutors with a quick overview of cases. Furthermore, it is intended to help direct victim safety planning strategies and offender management plans. The FVIR has been a mandatory report for all police services within Alberta since November, 2008. It is currently undergoing revisions to ensure that it remains accurate and relevant.

Safety considerations are an important follow-up to the FVIR, which may identify specific areas of risk for the victim. "Strategies for Safety: Considerations for Individuals Experiencing Family Violence" was designed to provide safety planning information to professional and front line responders who are working with individuals impacted by family violence. It provides information and questions that assist in beginning the conversations around the issues of victim safety and engaging other community partners as required and appropriate.

This resource along with quick reference sheets for victims is available online: http://justice.alberta.ca/programs_services/criminal_pros/Publications%20Library%20%20Criminal%20Prosecutions/StrategiesforSafetyConsiderationsforIndividualsExperiencingFamilyViolence.aspx/DispForm.aspx?ID=14 (accessed November 8, 2013).

5.15 Family Violence Risk Factor Checklist

This checklist was developed by representatives from various community organizations in Winnipeg as well as Winnipeg Police Services, Manitoba Justice Prosecutions, Probation and Victim Services as well as the RESOLVE program at the University of Manitoba. Consultation occurred with a forensic psychologist, Dr. Gail Robertson from the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Medicine.

The checklist is not used as a formal tool but rather provides a comprehensive list of risk factors related to the offending individual and the victim which can assist workers to make safety assessments. Manitoba Justice Victim Services staff are required to forward a report which includes an analysis of safety factors to Prosecutions in the event a complainant requests changes to protective conditions (i.e. no contact/no attendance conditions) contained on a court order.

5.16 Guide d'Intervention Info-Social pour prévenir les homicides intrafamiliaux

Mandated by the Québec Ministry of Health and Social Services the Centre for Applied Research in Psychosocial Intervention has developed guides and assessment grids, including a grid to assess danger in cases where there is a potential for domestic homicide. These tools support crisis interventions made by Info-Social and are used throughout the province of Québec by Info-Social services following training. For the time being, the guide entitled << Guide d'Intervention Info-Social pour prévenir les homicides intrafamiliaux >> is used exclusively by Info-Social stakeholders.

5.17 HCR-20

The HCR-20 was developed by Christopher D.Webster, Ph.D., Kevin S. Douglas, LLB, Ph.D., Derek Eaves, M.D. and Stephen D. Hart, Ph.D. It is a broad-based violence risk assessment tool which may be applied to a variety of cases, including domestic violence. It examines historical, clinical and risk management and is comprised of twenty (20) items.[13]

Historical Scale

  • H1 Previous Violence
  • H2 Young Age at First Violent Incident
  • H3 Relationship Instability
  • H4 Employment Problems
  • H5 Substance Abuse Problems
  • H6 Major Mental Illness
  • H7 Psychopathy
  • H8 Early Maladjustment
  • H9 Personality Disorder
  • H10 Prior Supervision Failure

Clinical Scale

  • C1 Lack of Insight
  • C2 Negative Attitudes
  • C3 Active Symptoms of Major Mental Illness
  • C4 Impulsivity
  • C5 Unresponsiveness to Treatment

Risk Management Scale

  • R1 Plans Lack Feasibility
  • R2 Exposure to Destabilizers
  • R3 Lack of Personal Support
  • R4 Noncompliance with Remediation Attempts
  • R5 Stress

The HCR-20 is currently being used by J-TRAC in the province of Alberta and the Domestic Violence and Criminal Harassment Unit of the Vancouver Police Department and the Behavioural Sciences Unit of the RCMP in Surrey, British Columbia.

For more information on the HCR-20, please refer to the following website. http://www.proactive-resolutions.com/ (date accessed: June 7, 2013.)

5.18 High Risk Case Coordination Protocol Framework

The High Risk Case Coordination Protocol Framework is a joint provincial protocol of the Nova Scotia Departments of Justice, Community Services and Public Prosecution Service. Local committees in all counties are involved with how the protocol can be best implemented in each area.

When a case is deemed to be a "high risk" situation, the High Risk Case Coordination Protocol Framework requires information sharing among primary service providers including: police, victim services workers, community corrections staff, transition houses, men's intervention programs and child welfare. The Framework was developed to help identify and reduce risk of death and increase safety for victims by providing support/safety planning for the victim and avoid duplication of services.

Crown attorneys are also informed of the risk assessment results and can take this information into account with respect to victim safety, when considering conditions of release. At the time of this report, however, this information is not being formally introduced in court proceedings.

5.19 Intervening with men to prevent domestic homicide

This intervention guide is the result of a joint project between the CRI-VIFF and the Association à cœur d'homme - Réseau d'aide aux hommes pour une société sans violence. The guide includes two important tools. The first tool makes it possible to assess the risk of spousal homicide. As soon as there is a risk, the guide recommends a more comprehensive assessment. Other factors known to be associated with homicide (such as homicidal fantasies, precipitating events and protective factors) are systematically explored. The second tool is a risk-management tool and consists of a set of strategies to manage risk depending on the level of danger present. The tool also has a monitoring mechanism.

Drouin, C., J. Lindsay, M. Dubé, M. Trépanier & D. Blanchette (2012). Intervenir auprès des hommes pour prévenir l'homicide conjugal. [Working with men to prevent spousal homicide. Available in French only.] http://www.criviff.qc.ca/cms/liste_publications2.php?lang=en&menu=7&id=21

5.20 Level of Service Case Management Inventory (LS/CMI)

The Level of Service Case Management Inventory, developed by Don Andrews, Ph.D., James Bonta, Ph.D. and J. Stephen Wormith, Ph.D., is considered to be a general risk and needs assessment and case management tool for all offenders and is not specific to spousal violence offenders.

The tool is administered by community corrections staff and probation officers primarily to outline and monitor case plans. It also assists in the identification of appropriate levels of supervision on the basis of an offender’s rehabilitation and programming needs.

Key areas measured are: criminal history, education/employment, family/marital, leisure/recreation, companions, alcohol/drug problem, attitudes/orientation, criminogenic/non-criminogenic needs, responsivity and case management.[13]

The LS/CMI is currently used by Adult Probation Services in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Manitoba and as an optional tool for Correctional Services in Nova Scotia. It is used in New Brunswick by Probation Services and provincial institution staff, and Correctional Services in Nunavut is currently reviewing this tool for future use.

For more information on this tool, please refer to the following web site. http://www.mhs.com/product.aspx?gr=saf&prod=ls-cmi&id=overview (date accessed: June 7, 2013.)

5.21 Level of Service Inventory-R (LSI-R)

The LSI-R, developed by Don Andrews, Ph.D. and James Bonta, Ph.D., is an assessment and screening tool for all offenders and is not specific to spousal violence offenders. This tool measures risk factors in areas of criminal history, employment, family/marital, companions, alcohol/drug problems, emotional/personal and attitude/orientation. This tool helps inform decision criteria regarding offenders’ service and supervision needs.

The LSI-R is currently being used by Community and Correctional Services in Prince Edward Island and Probation Services in the Yukon.

For more information on the LSI-R, please refer to the following web site: https://www.mhs.com(date accessed: June 7, 2013.)

5.22 Offender Risk Assessment Management System–Primary Risk Assessment (ORAMS-PRA)

This tool was developed by Correctional Services in Manitoba and is used in all custodial facilities and corrections centres in the province. Correctional Services in Saskatchewan and Nunavut have also implemented the ORAMS-PRA.

The Primary Risk Assessment (PRA) is a component of the ORAMS. It is used as a general risk and needs assessment tool to assist in predicting an offender’s risk to re-offend. It also provides the foundation for how case plans are prepared. All offenders sentenced to probation, a conditional sentence or incarceration and for those whom a court report has been ordered undergo the Primary Risk Assessment.

5.23 Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA)

The Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment (ODARA) was the result of collaborative efforts between the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and the Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care based in Penetanguishene, Ontario. This empirically based, actuarial risk assessment tool was developed in response to both the May-Iles and Hadley Inquest[15] recommendations and recommendations made by The Joint Committee on Domestic Violence[16] to the Attorney General of Ontario in 1999.

The ODARA was originally developed for front-line police officers but is available for use by victim services, health care workers, probation and correctional services personnel in addition to domestic violence caseworkers in some provinces. This tool assesses risk of future wife assault in addition to the frequency and severity of these assaults. Although it was not designed to predict risk of lethality, the authors have found a correlation between higher ODARA scores and more severe assaults in the future. The form is made up of the following 13 items.

Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment Items (ODARA)[17]

  1. Previous Domestic Incident
  2. Previous Non domestic Incident
  3. Prior Correctional Sentence of at least 30 days
  4. Failure on Previous Conditional Release
  5. Threat to Harm or Kill Anyone at the Index Assault
  6. Confinement of the Partner During/at the Index Assault
  7. Victim Concerned/Fearful of Future Assaults
  8. Two or More Children
  9. Victim has a Biological Child from a Previous Partner
  10. Perpetrator’s Violence Against Others
  11. Perpetrator’s Substance Abuse
  12. Assault on Victim when Pregnant
  13. Any Barrier to Victim Support

The ODARA is currently being used by police departments in Ontario. In Nova Scotia, a number of agencies use the ODARA including the RCMP, municipal police departments, military police and Correctional Services. Probation Services in New Brunswick uses this tool. In Saskatchewan, provincial correctional centres, Probation Services and domestic violence caseworkers associated with domestic violence courts and police-based victim services programs use the ODARA.

For more information on the ODARA, please refer to the following article:
Hilton, N.Z., Harris, G.T., Rice, M.E., Lang, C., Cormier, C.A., & Lines, K.J. (2004). A brief actuarial assessment for the prediction of wife assault recidivism: The Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment. Psychological Assessment, 16, 267-275.

For additional information and for a full scoring and interpretation booklet, please refer to the following website: http://odara.waypointcentre.ca/ (date accessed: June 7, 2013.)

5.24 Ontario Provincial Police Criminal Behavioural Analysis Unit – Threat Assessment (CBAU-TA)

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Criminal Behavioural Analysis Unit – Threat Assessment (CBAU-TA) is a 6-person unit established in 1995 and is responsible for providing investigative assistance, support and training in the management of all occurrences that have a potential for targeted violence (e.g., sexual violence, domestic violence, criminal harassment, threatening correspondence, threats to judiciary and public officials, school violence and workplace violence). The unit has provided this type of training provincially, nationally and internationally to criminal justice agencies including: law enforcement, Ministry of the Attorney General, defence counsel, probation and parole, educators, and the private sector. CBAU-TA is part of the OPP's Behavioural Sciences and Analysis Section and the Unit works closely with other CBAU Units including Criminal Profiling, Research and Forensic Psychiatry. On a number of occasions, the members of the CBAU-TA have been qualified as experts in threat assessment and risk management at the Ontario and Superior Courts of Justice including at bail hearings, bail reviews, sentencing hearings, peace bond applications, and long-term and dangerous offender hearings.

In 2003, the CBAU-TA developed a Threat Assessment Understudy Program to establish a defined and transparent process which would identify promising practices (e.g., standard, guidelines and training) necessary to conduct threat assessments. The Understudy Program was the first of its kind known in North America. Since its inception, a number of OPP members have successfully completed the program, as well as members from Durham, Peel and York Regional Police Services, and members of I-TRAC. The OPP Understudy Program is limited to law enforcement agencies having a dedicated Threat Assessment Unit which consists of one or more sworn law-enforcement members, preferably having a rank above Constable. Members from the OPP cannot provide threat assessment training, written threat assessment reports, or case management opinions/recommendations unless they have successfully completed the Understudy Program.

5.25 Preventing Domestic Homicide of Women - Checklist

This checklist, which makes it possible to describe more accurately the risks of homicide in cases of domestic violence, is the result of a joint project between the CRI-VIFF, the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal and the Service de police de la Ville de Québec. Work to incorporate this checklist into the guide entitled << Guide de pratiques policières >> (a guide to police practices), available to all police organizations across the province, is under way.

Drouin, Dubé and Lindsay in collaboration with Rondeau, the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal and the Service de police de la Ville de Québec (2009). Prévenir l'homicide de la conjointe - Aide-mémoire [Checklist: Preventing domestic homicide of women. Available in French only.]
http://www.criviff.qc.ca/upload/publications/pub_29022012_141122.pdf

5.26 Preventing Domestic Homicide of Women: An Intervention Guide

This intervention guide is the result of a joint project between the Interdisciplinary Research Center on Family Violence and Violence against Women (CRI-VIFF) and the Fédération des ressources d'hébergement pour femmes violentées et en difficulté du Québec. The guide is divided into two main sections. The first section is a review of the literature on spousal homicide, including risk factors and information to help understand what leads men to kill their partners. The second section of the guide deals with intervention and describes assessment and intervention tools to help shelter workers in situations that are likely to become lethal.

Drouin, C., J. Drolet, G. Rondeau, M. Dubé, J. Lindsay, & S. Therrien (2004). Preventing Domestic Homicide of Women: An Intervention Guide. http://www.criviff.qc.ca/cms/liste_publications2.php?lang=en&menu=7&id=21

5.27 Professional Assessment

There are established protocols in the province of Manitoba with the aim to reduce risk to victims of spousal violence. Social workers categorize spousal violence cases into two groups for assessment: 1) Charged, and 2) Not Charged. The social workers use their professional judgement to assess the level of risk. This assessment information is used to help Crown attorneys make decisions regarding the case. In instances where a case is deemed high risk, community support surveillance officers are assigned to closely monitor the individual.

5.28 Protocol for Highest Risk Cases

The protocol for highest risk cases is included in British Columbia's Violence Against Women in Relationships (VAWIR) policy, which sets out the roles and responsibilities of service providers across the justice and child welfare systems that respond to domestic violence. The Protocol itself applies to five major provincial partners: police, Crown counsel, child protection workers, corrections staff (bail supervisors and probation officers) and victim service workers. The Protocol is intended to enhance the justice and child welfare system response to highest risk domestic violence cases through heightened information sharing, comprehensive and collaborative safety planning and risk mitigation strategies.

The Protocol describes the type of information expected to be shared in highest risk cases including, but not limited to, information concerning the domestic violence incident, indentified risk factors, status of the investigation and outcome of any child welfare involvement. The Protocol has been part of the provincial VAWIR policy framework since December 2010.

See pg. 59 of the VAWIR Policy – http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/victimservices/publications/docs/vawir.pdf (date accessed: October 22, 2013)

5.29 Risk Management System

The Department of Social Development, Child Protection Services of New Brunswick administers a tool entitled the Risk Management System which includes a domestic violence component. This tool is based on the New York State Department of Social Services safety assessment and risk management tools. The tool was reviewed following a recommendation submitted in July 1998 by the Child Death Review Committee.

The New Brunswick Risk Management System contains nine key components including: nine (9) risk decision points, criteria to guide each decision, documentation of each decision, an immediate safety assessment and safety plan, a comprehensive risk assessment tool in addition to a service plan connected to the risk assessment.

Child Protection Services share the results of their risk assessments with the police and victim services, providing the victim is a client of victim services. Information sharing also occurs where there is a need to coordinate an intervention plan.

The Child Welfare System of New Brunswick is currently under restructuring to introduce differential responses and part of this project is to develop a more comprehensive assessment, based on the family’s strengths.

5.30 Risk of Sexual Violence Protocol (RSVP)

The Risk of Sexual Violence Protocol (Stephen D. Hart, P. Randall Kropp and D. Richard Laws with Jessica Klaver, Caroline Logan and Kelly A. Watt) is a 22-item risk assessment tool associated with the risk of sexual violence, examining static, dynamic and manageability factors. The assessment is based on a foundation of effective assessment, case management and the required interventions to manage and reduce risk. It is used in cases of domestic violence, if deemed appropriate.

This tool is currently used by I-TRAC in the province of Alberta.

For more information, please refer to the following website. http://www.proactive-resolutions.com/ (date accessed June 7, 2013)

5.31 Saskatchewan Primary Risk Assessment (SPRA)

Probation officers in the province of Saskatchewan are certified in the use ofthe Saskatchewan Primary Risk Assessment tool (SPRA).It is a 15-item scoring sheet which includes risk levels and cut-off ratings along with an accompanying scoring and information record for more detailed information. The SPRA is a slightly modified version of the Offender Risk Assessment Management System – Primary Risk Assessment and is used in case plan development, risk management and risk reduction strategies.

5.32 Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (SARA)

The Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (SARA) was developed by P. Randall Kropp, Ph.D., Stephen D. Hart, Ph.D., Christopher D. Webster, Ph.D. and Derek Eaves, M.D.This tool consists of a 20-item checklist covering criminal history, psychological functioning, and current social adjustment. It may be used by a variety of professionals including: law enforcement professionals, correctional officers and government agencies. It is designed to assess the risk of future abuse in adult male offenders in addition to incorporating the evaluators’ professional judgment as part of the assessment. SARA includes the following twenty (20) indicators categorized [18]

Criminal History

  • 1. Past Assault of Family Members
  • 2. Past Assault of Strangers or Acquaintances
  • 3. Past Violation of Conditional Release or Community Supervision

Psychosocial Adjustment

  • 4. Recent Relationship Problems
  • 5. Recent Employment Problems
  • 6. Victim of and/or Witness to Family Violence as a Child or Adolescent
  • 7. Recent Substance Abuse/Dependence
  • 8. Recent Suicidal or Homicidal Ideation/Intent
  • 9. Recent Psychotic and/or Manic Symptoms
  • 10. Personality Disorder with Anger, Impulsivity, or Behavioural Instability

Spousal Assault History

  • 11. Past Physical Assault
  • 12. Past Sexual Assault/Sexual Jealousy
  • 13. Past Use of Weapons and/or Credible Threats of Death
  • 14. Recent Escalation in Frequency or Severity of Assault
  • 15. Past Violation of “No Contact” Orders
  • 16. Extreme Minimization or Denial of Spousal Assault History
  • 17. Attitudes that Support or Condone Spousal Assault

Alleged (Current) Offence

  • 18. Severe and/or Sexual Assault
  • 19. Use of Weapons and/or Credible Threats of Death
  • 20. Violation of “No Contact” Order

The SARA is used by criminal justice personnel in a number of areas across the country, including: Newfoundland and Labrador (Correctional Services), New Brunswick (Correctional and Probation Services), Ontario (police), Alberta (police, RCMP, I-TRAC), British Columbia (Correctional Services, Domestic Violence and Criminal Harassment, Vancouver Police Department) and the Yukon (Correctional and Probation Services, RCMP).

For more information, please refer to the following website. http://www.proactive-resolutions.com/ (date accessed: June 7, 2013.)


  • [10] The Victims of Family Violence Act is a provincial law that came into effect on December 16, 1996.
  • [11] Arlene May was murdered in March 1996 by her former boyfriend who then killed himself. Arlene's murder followed months of abuse, threats and harassment, which she had reported to the police numerous times. At the time of the murder/suicide, he had been charged with several offences against Arlene and was free on bail that prohibited him from having any contact with her. The Chief Coroner of Ontario decided to hold an inquest into her death and into the issue of domestic violence generally. Inquest into the deaths of Arlene May and Randy Iles, February 16 - July 2, 1998, Coroners Courts, Toronto, Ontario. http://www.owjn.org/archive/arlene.htm
    (date accessed: April 10, 2009)
  • [12] The Public Security Division of Alberta Solicitor General chairs the committee which is comprised of officials from the municipal police services, the RCMP, First Nations Police Service, the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters, Children and Youth Services, and the Criminal Justice Division of Alberta Justice. The committee meets on a regular basis with a focus on protection issues and the criminal justice system.
  • [13] Reprinted with permission.
  • [14] Case management is not considered an area of assessment. It is where the officer outlines and monitors the case plan.
  • [15] Gillian Hadley was murdered in June 2000 by her husband (from whom she was separated) Ralph Hadley. Shortly after he murdered Gillian, he killed himself. He had assaulted her and her disabled child and had criminal charges pending against him. He had also been charged with criminal harassment after stalking her following their separation. He was under an order of the court to remain away from her. The Hadley Inquest resulted in 58 jury recommendations. http://www.springtideresources.org/sites/all/files/Hadley-inquest-recommendations_1.pdf (date accessed: June 7, 2013)
  • [16] In November 1998, a Joint Committee on Domestic Violence, composed of senior government officials and experts on domestic violence, was created to advise the government of Ontario on how best to implement the 213 recommendations arising from the Coroner's Inquest into the murder of Arlene May, a victim of domestic violence and the suicide of Randy Iles, the perpetrator of that violence.
  • [17] Reprinted with permission.
  • [18] Reprinted with permission.

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