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toronto pregnant teenager jailed on no charges

April 8th, 2008     by Thea Lim     Comments

Thanks to the Shameless reader who sent us a tip on this awful story.

From the Toronto Star:

19-year-old, who faces no charges, distressed at being behind bars after attempts to subpoena her as witness in domestic assault case failed…Due to deliver next Tuesday, [Noellee Mowatt] has been detained at Vanier Centre for Women since Thursday, when a justice of the peace denied her bail. Mowatt, who faces no criminal charges in this case, won’t be let out until she testifies at her boyfriend’s domestic assault trial on Friday.

…Toronto police said they tried several times to serve the expectant mother with a subpoena to show up in court. When she wasn’t present March 20, a judge issued a material warrant for her arrest…Mowatt, who lived in shelters and a rooming house before her arrest April 1, said that while she had several conversations with detectives, no one ever asked her to pick up a subpoena or tried to drop one off.

More frightening than Mowatt’s case in and of itself is the precedent it sets, and the message it sends to women stuck in abusive situations:

Several groups said yesterday they can’t remember the last time a victim of domestic violence was held in jail on a material warrant…Amanda Dale of the YWCA is baffled that such means, which are usually employed to compel other criminals to testify, would be used on someone so vulnerable.

“It’s counterproductive to the broader goal of getting women to leave violent situations,” [Dale] said…”It will have a chilling effect on anyone coming forward and reporting to the police.”

It’s shocking how the justice system doesn’t attempt to adapt to the life situations of those it is supposed to be protecting.

I have to wonder if Mowatt would’ve been treated the same way if she was not a teenager, not a recent immigrant, and not lower income. We know that people who experience marginalisation are poorly treated by our systems, but it’s still appalling to see how the system pushes people around without regard to any of the circumstances of their lives.

The fact that the state is trying to remedy violence against women through being violent towards a woman - because locking anyone up against their will, but especially a very pregnant woman, is a form of violence - is pretty frightening.

This case brings to mind another case of an incarcerated pregnant woman that has a very sad ending: Kimberly Rogers.

Tags: news flash

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