What is the Partner Assault Response (PAR) Program?

August 7, 2021
    The PARS or Early Intervention Program may not be for everyone.
    The PARS or Early Intervention Program may not be for everyone.

    The Partner Assault Response (PAR) program is an educational counselling service designed by the government as an early intervention program with the intention of helping participants stop their alleged violent behaviours against their partners. The program is offered by community-based agencies that specialize in counselling defendants charged with domestic assault. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health states there are over 50 accredited agencies in Ontario that offer the program, ten of which are in the GTA. Specific agencies allow self-referrals for individuals not involved in the criminal justice system but nevertheless seek counselling for their behaviour against their partners. Most agencies offer a twelve week program, but certain agencies offer expedited fast-track PAR programs. The government states the project aims to help participants be accountable for their behaviour, give participants skills for general life management, and enhance victim safety. The programs are offered in over fifteen languages.

    Individuals charged with domestic violence or offences against their partner often agree to attend the PAR program depending on whether they are able to negotiate with the Crown in regards to the outcome of their case. An experienced domestic assault lawyer can advocate on your behalf to convince the Crown to withdraw your charges completely, conditionally, or upon the signing of a section 810 or common law peace bond once the defendant has completed the PAR program. The result is that an individual will not face a guilty verdict and the charges will not appear on your criminal record.

    Contact Pyzer Criminal Lawyers who have over 35 years of defending individuals facing allegations of domestic assault to see if you are eligible for the PAR Program.

    How Does the PAR Program Work?

    Ontario’s Integrated Domestic Violence Court (IDV Court) provides support in family and criminal cases through an integrated and holistic approach to individuals involved in domestic violence by offering the early intervention program. The PAR program is a component of the IDV Court which aims to assist families that are experiencing domestic violence by offering accelerating resolutions of the judicial proceedings. The goal of the program is to hold defendants accountable for their alleged behaviour and enhance victim safety.

    The government also states the PAR program is a court-ordered sanction that allows offenders the opportunity to examine their beliefs and attitudes towards domestic abuse and learn non-abusive ways of resolving conflict. Upon completion of the program, the defendant may have their charges withdrawn completely, conditionally, or upon the signing of a section 810 or common law peace bond, a stay of proceedings, an absolute discharge, a conditional discharge, or a suspended sentence. The result, most often, is that offenders who complete the program avoid domestic assault charges on their criminal record.

    What Does the PAR Program Cover?

    Although the program is called the Partner Assault Response (PAR) program, the approach offers a more general covering of life skills management through the Duluth model for treating alleged domestic violence. Each agency offers their own range of topics with the goal of holding the alleged abuser accountable for their actions and enhancing the safety of domestic violence victims. Several topics include:

    • Tune into the sources of anger and understand anger styles through anger management
    • Communicate feelings effectively
    • Express anger in a safe and supported environment
    • Explore and resolve anger from the past
    • Reduce high levels of stress
    • Manage anxiety and reduce depression
    • Uncover other emotions that tend to be masked by anger
    • Recognize the thoughts, feelings, and behaviour commonly associated with anger

    How Long Does the Par Program Last?

    The Partner Assault Response (PAR) program involves attending a total of twelve counselling sessions. The majority of agencies offer twelve, one hour, one-on-one group counselling sessions that are offered each week and are usually completed within two to three months. Certain agencies offer an expedited program which can be completed in seven weeks. Participants who are required by the court to attend the PAR program have to complete all twelve sessions in order to successfully complete the program.

    While attending the program, the defendant’s progress is shared with the referral source, such as the Crown or the court, on consent of the individual.

    Who Can Participate in PAR Programs?

    Individuals charged with domestic violence related charges might be able to avoid a criminal conviction or face less serious consequences upon completion of the PAR program. Specifically, offenders can be referred to the program as a condition of: (a) a section 810 or common law peace bond, (b) a revised Recognizance of Bail and agreement to attend and complete the PAR program (known as Early Intervention), or (c) a sentence ordered by the court after a guilty verdict, or following a guilty plea (known as Coordinated Prosecution). To be eligible for the PAR program, the Crown considers whether the defendant has prior convictions for domestic violence related offences, caused the victim significant injuries or harm, used weapons, and pleaded guilty. The Crown will decide whether the defendant’s best interests and the interests of society can be attained by employing an alternative option to criminal prosecution. Individuals may also be referred to the program if convicted of a non-domestic violence offence but have been identified as being violent, abusive and controlling towards their partner.

    Several agencies also allow individuals who are not charged with a domestic violence offence to self-refer themselves to the PAR program.

    If you are charged with a domestic violence related offence, contact Pyzer Criminal Lawyers today to discuss whether possible alternatives to criminal prosecution can be negotiated for you.

    PAR Program Q&A

    Are Individuals Required to Pay a Fee for This Program?

    As part of taking responsibility for their alleged actions, defendants who attend the partner assault response program are required to pay for it. You are able to apply to have the program fees reduced, at which point the cost will be based according to the individual's income on a pro-rated sliding scale. In order to reduce program fees, it is necessary for individuals to provide financial information.

    If I Agree to PARS Will I Be Able to Regain Contact With My Partner or Spouse?

    In most cases, the Crown will agree to vary the criminal undertaking or bail conditions to allow contact with complainant while the accused attends the 16 individual PARS sessions if the complainant is agreeable to this arrangement.

    What Happens if Someone Fails the PAR Program?

    If someone does not complete the PAR program or reoffends during the program, the original charge is reinstated and new additional charges may be filed.

    What Happens When the PAR Program Is Completed?

    When the program is completed, a comprehensive Report and/or Certificate of Completion is issued. Completion of the program allows individuals to meet and fulfill the typical conditions from the court order. For example, the negotiations made with the Crown will be fulfilled after individuals successfully complete the PAR program. Typical results include avoiding a criminal conviction or criminal record as a result of the domestic violence incident.

    Are There Any Limitations to the PAR Program?

    Although completion of the program often ends with charges being withdrawn or decreased, the program may not always suit someone’s personal situation. For example, the program caters more to assault and relationship issues when the personal situation is more closely related to a drug or alcohol abuse problem. Additionally, when individuals register for the program, a requirement is to admit to or accept responsibility for the offence by signing papers. Therefore, participating in the PAR program may not be the best option for every individual facing domestic assault charges. If a viable defence is available for the accused, proceeding in the court system may be the preferred option.

    Jenessa May
    Written By:
    Jenessa May
    Summer Student and JD Candidate
    Jenessa is completing her Juris Doctor degree at the University of Ottawa where she will graduate in 2022. Originally from Kelowna, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia Okanagan with a major in psychology and a minor in sociology.
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