The 33-year-old man accused of murdering a woman by striking her with a car in Cole Harbour, N.S., earlier this week has made his first court appearance in a case that advocates say exposes the vulnerability of women who experience intimate partner violence.
Aaron Daniel Crawley, 33, has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Hollie Marie Boland, 30, of Dartmouth.
Crawley had previously been arrested for a similar attack on Boland in May, and then again for an assault involving her in June.
The accused appeared in court via video link from the Burnside jail on Wednesday. He asked to speak but was advised not to.
He did tell the court: "I do plan on co-operating, though, with everything."
Aaron Daniel Crawley appeared in court via video link on Wednesday. (Nova Scotia RCMP/X)
The Crown wanted Crawley to stay in jail while the earlier charges made their way through the courts, but a judge released him under house arrest on conditions.
"Individuals have right to reasonable bail and the court needs to consider bail in every situation, no matter how serious the charge is and how strong the evidence against people," Crown prosecutor Eric Taylor said following court Wednesday.
"And the judge in that case felt that the risk could be alleviated by harsh conditions of house arrest, which he imposed."
Taylor said there was no court-ordered risk assessment on whether Crawley posed a risk to Boland or the wider community prior to the bail decision.
Brian Cox, the president of the Nova Scotia Crown Attorneys' Association, told CBC News the fact that Crawley was accused of a crime while released is a "failure of our justice system."
"This victim was a real person with a real family and children, and we're going to be fighting for their justice right alongside the public's in this matter," he said.
"When we have an intimate partner who's killed while an offender is out on release, that says to me that the bail system is not working."
'These women didn't have to die'
Boland's death comes just a day after an 88-year-old woman was killed in an alleged axe assault by a man in Pictou County. Police have not confirmed the relationship between the accused and victim.
The deaths of two women in just as many days has raised concern among advocates who work to prevent violence against women.
Ann de Ste Croix, the provincial co-ordinator with the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia, said there's been a rise in femicides and violence against women in Canada, with a woman or a girl being killed every 48 hours.
"Within our organizations, we're seeing an increase in demand for our services," de Ste Croix said. "We're seeing an intensification in the types of violence that people are experiencing as well.
"This is one of many cases within the province that have happened, so I think broadly speaking, I can say that things are getting worse."
De Ste Croix said that while there are services and supports available for victims and survivors of intimate partner violence, more needs to be done to prevent violence and to support those experiencing it.
"There needs to be more wraparound services for victims and supports," she said. "That looks like investments into mental health and addictions and housing and food security and all of those other things that impact those experiencing violence and can make it more difficult to leave."
Feminist advocate Linda MacDonald, with the Truro, N.S.,-based group Persons Against Non-State Torture, agrees that more needs to be done to prevent femicide.
"These women didn't have to die," MacDonald told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon on Wednesday.
MacDonald said all too often women and girls are killed due to their gender, and the justice system doesn't fully take that into account.
"This man should have been considered a serious risk of murder and femicide, and should have been retained until the final sentencing," she said.
"I don't know if [the judge] understood the lethality of the man that he had in front of him: a man that was alleged to have strangled and choked and he's alleged to have used a car to try to harm Hollie before, and whether he understood that there's such serious warnings of femicide there and that house arrest wasn't enough, I have no idea."
Crawley remains in custody and is scheduled to return to court on Nov. 29
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