Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive April 14, 2008)

It’s Not a Joke

By Bob Cooper



The jailing of 19 year old Noellee Mowatt on a Material Witness warrant in Toronto has set off a predictable firestorm from the usual feminist groups from coast to coast. 

For those who haven’t followed the story, Mowatt phoned the police last December and reported being beaten by her boyfriend, Christopher Harbin.  Police arrived and found Mowatt distraught and showing physical injuries which corroborated her story.  Faced with this evidence the attending constables promptly arrested Harbin and locked him up for assault.  Those members thought the case was serious enough to refer to Detectives for follow-up.  In a 45 minute interview the same day, Mowatt told the Detectives of physical abuse and beatings that went on for weeks.  All this while she was pregnant with Harbin’s child.

Fast forward to last week when the case went to trial.  Mowatt refused to appear and testify.  Apparently she and Harbin had made up and she just wanted to get on with her life and raise their child which was due shortly.  Sure.  What’s the big deal?  Just drop the charges and let’s get on with it.

The Crown Attorney saw things differently and had Mowatt locked up to ensure her appearance in court.  ‘Heavy-handed’, ‘Harsh’, ‘Draconian’, ‘treating the victim like a criminal’, screamed the women’s groups.

To understand the dynamics at play here you have to go back a few years.  One of the biggest complaints of the feminist movement was that cops didn’t take domestic disputes seriously.  Not true.  Statistically, domestic disputes are the most dangerous calls police answer and we took them very seriously.

What we did do was handle them in a more practical fashion.  Typically we would try to convince the husband to spend the night elsewhere and come back the next day when the flow of booze and emotions had ebbed.  Failing that, we’d trick him into the hallway where we’d arrest him for being drunk in a public place.  If there were serious injuries there was no question, the husband was locked up and charged otherwise these measures were a temporary fix and meant we didn’t have to go back there that night.

While on the surface this may look like laziness or dereliction of duty, there were some very good reasons for it.  Firstly, every relationship has its ups and downs and many of these calls were ‘one-off’ situations that would probably not repeat themselves.

Secondly, it wasn’t unheard of to have the wife attack us while we were arresting the husband then they both went to jail and the kids went to Children’s Aid.  The biggest reason however, was that in almost all cases, the wife would be down at the prosecutor’s office the next morning begging them to drop the charges.  She would say she loved him which usually meant he brought the paycheque home.  In most cases the prosecutor would acquiesce, meaning the arrest had been for nothing.  In other words, we’d wasted time that could have been spent dealing with other calls where the victim appreciated our help.  In many cases the same woman would be allowed to drop charges on more than one occasion.  Now who isn’t taking it seriously?

No matter, the feminists held sway particularly with an NDP government and BC wound up with a ‘mandatory arrest’ policy in all cases of domestic violence.   Regardless that the assault was trifling in nature the husband (in most cases) goes to jail.  No discretion, no options, call the wagon, everybody goes.

In the Mowatt case one of two things has occurred.  She’s made the whole thing up in which case she’s committed Public Mischief which involves misleading the police or she’d told the truth at the outset and now wants to back out.  Both scenarios resulted in  extensive use of scarce public resources and Harbin being deprived of his freedom. 

Obviously, it was the latter.  Calling the police and accusing someone of committing a crime isn’t a joke.  It isn’t a lark.  It’s not a device you use to get the upper hand.  It’s serious.  The police took it seriously, rescued her from her situation and that confers an obligation upon Mowatt to follow through and do her part.  The Crown Attorney also took it seriously and simply forced Mowatt to honor her obligation.

Mowatt is quoted as saying from jail that she’d never call the police again for anything.  I suppose that would rule out a simple ‘thank you’.  No, she’s already taken the stand and lied and she’ll go back to this mutt time and again until he kills her.  I’ve seen it too many times to count.

There’s an old Chinese saying that goes “Be careful what you wish for” that Mowatt would have done well to heed.  She phoned 911 thinking she could use the police as a big stick to tame her abusive boyfriend and got a little more than she bargained for.  Kudos to the Crown Attorney, I say. 

Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2008