Peterborough, Ont. woman slams legal system for allowing her alleged abuser to be released on bail

Click to play video: 'Samantha’s Story – Part 1' Samantha’s Story – Part 1
An on-again-off-again relationship allegedly turned abusive. It’s not exactly a new story, but one Peterborough woman caught up in a case of alleged domestic abuse herself is now going public. And as Lindsay Biscaia tells us, she’s looking for change in Canada’s justice system. And a warning – some may find this story disturbing. – Feb 16, 2021

A Peterborough woman is calling out Ontario’s legal system after what she says has been a year of fearing for her life, ever since her alleged abuser was released on bail.

Samantha McRae claims her ex-boyfriend has breached his court orders multiple times and is continuously attempting to contact her, after being arrested on a number of assault charges in December 2019.

The case is still before the courts.

Read more: ‘Perfect storm’ — Growing calls to address domestic violence during coronavirus

McRae says it all started when she decided to end her on-again, off-again relationship with the man on Dec. 3, 2019. That night, McRae says she agreed to meet up with him in his vehicle.

“I was held captive for about two and a half hours. He threatened to kill me. He threatened to kill my family. He even threatened to kill my dog,” she says.

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McRae claims the man tried to drive off with her, which is when she jumped out of his moving vehicle to get back to her own car.

“Once he realized I was no longer in the vehicle, he turned and swerved and hit my car,” McRae says.

Samantha McRae says her alleged abuser drove into her vehicle to prevent her from leaving.

After the alleged incident, McRae says she was told by police to stay in a hotel until the suspect was found.

She says it took about a week for officers to locate him.

“When they finally found him, he was driving up and down our road in an unmarked vehicle. And he was arrested the first time outside of our house, trying to find me.”

According to court documents obtained by Global News, the man was charged with forcible confinement, assault and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle. After another police investigation in connection with an earlier incident, he was also charged with two counts of assault with a weapon, assault, and choking.

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The man was issued a restraining order, banning him from contacting McRae in any way, and was ordered to live with two sureties; both members of his family. Court documents show he was then released on bail. The allegations against the man have not been proven in court.

Days after his arrest, he allegedly sent McRae an email, asking her to forgive him. He was arrested for the alleged breach, and was once again released on bail the same day.

Read more: Brampton man charged with murder in woman’s death, police chief cites ‘complete failure’ of system

About six weeks later, on Valentine’s Day, McRae claims she received another message from her alleged abuser through social media. After she reported it to police, the man was arrested a second time for allegedly breaching his bail orders. Court documents show he was once again brought into custody, and was once again released later that day.

McRae claims it’s now a pattern of her alleged abuser trying to contact her roughly every four to six weeks.

“To this day, whether it’s showing up at my house, areas I frequently visit or social media, it’s constant harassment. And we’ve had multiple times where we’ve had to take our safety plan into action because a car was acting suspicious on our road,” she says.

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McRae’s story isn’t an uncommon one.

In July, a Halton Hills woman, Darian Henderson-Bellman, was allegedly killed by a man with whom police say she had a previous relationship after he allegedly breached his no-contact order multiple times.

McRae says she sees a lot of similarities between that case and her own. And she fears she, too, could suffer the same fate as Henderson-Bellman.

“I definitely think that my life is completely at risk,” McRae says.

With that thought in mind, McRae says she’s now in a holding pattern, looking for some kind of closure in the form of a trial date — a date that she says keeps getting pushed back.

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“Every time he breaches, it adds another few months that I have to wait for the trial,” she says.

Global News has reached out to the Ontario Court of Justice multiple times for comment, but has not heard back.

When it comes to law enforcement, even those on the front lines say they can’t speak for the courts.

“Our job as police is to enforce the laws, conduct a thorough investigation, and then bring people to justice,” says Peterborough County OPP Constable, Joe Ayotte.

“It’s up to the elected officials and courts to then decide what the penalties and sentences will be for the offenders that commit domestic violence crimes.”

Peterborough-Kawartha MP and Minister for Women and Gender Equality Maryam Monsef has also refused to comment on the situation. Monsef’s office would only send a written statement in response to a Global News request for an interview.

“Intimate partner violence is a tragic reality in Canada and it is never acceptable,” writes Monsef’s special assistant for communications, Ryan Young, “As this is a matter that is currently before the courts, it would be inappropriate for MP Monsef to comment so we must decline this interview request.

“Gender-based violence will not be tolerated in Canada, and we will continue working to end it in all its forms.”

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Ann Farquharson, a lawyer in Peterborough, has no connection to McRae’s case. However, she does have experience working with victims of domestic and gender-based violence. Farquharson says the most dangerous time for a person in this situation is after they have left the abusive relationship, as she says it’s very common for the alleged abuser to breach court orders.

“It’s extremely common,” Farquharson says, “that there’s harassment, there’s stalking … and it’s just endless in some cases. I truly believe that when they breach these terms, they should be taken extremely seriously, and they should be kept in custody if it continues.”

Kim Dolan, executive director of the YWCA Peterborough Haliburton, says victims who are in this situation need to continue reporting the breaches to police, even if it starts to feel hopeless.

“At what point does someone become so worn down by the system that’s supposed to protect them, and give up?” Dolan says.

McRae says she’s not ready to give up.

And she has a message for the family of Henderson-Bellman.

“I really want the family to know that we are going to fight for her. We are going to actually try to bring some sort of justice and closure to her,” McRae said. “It’s time to take a stand.”

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Global News has reached out to the lawyers of the accused for comment, but did not get a response.

A trial date for the accused has not been set.

Click to play video: 'Samantha’s Story – part 2' Samantha’s Story – part 2
Samantha’s Story – part 2 – Feb 18, 2021

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