The courtroom was overflowing.

“Is that the monster?” Marilou asked Pat, pointing to the man in the prisoner’s dock. “I hear this Frank is a horrible wife-abuser.”

“Just take a look at his common-law wife.” Pat pointed in the direction of a bent, frail woman with straggly hair, a broken nose and bruises under her eyes. The woman was sitting in a daze next to her lawyer.

“Pat, that’s Heather Noseworthy. We went to school together. She used to be so beautiful. All the guys were after her. What happened?”

“Oh, just a lethal mixture of severe alcoholism, vicious beatings, emotional abuse and death threats. Eight years of torture.”

Pat closed her eyes and sighed. “You know, I think my Uncle Ernest beat my Aunt Mary. Sometimes she looked just like Heather. But back in those days, everybody looked the other way.”

Marilou looked disturbed. “I know what Frank did was horrible, but I think having him declared a dangerous offender and jailed indefinitely is completely undemocratic. It’s the job of the system to protect Heather,” Marilou said.

Pat’s neighbor was listening in on the conversation. She was furious.

“Yeah, let the system protect her. The scoundrel had 37 domestic violence convictions, yet under “the system” he only got short sentences. Many of these offences were committed when he was on probation or roaming loose with arrest warrants outstanding.

“And he made so many threatening phone calls to workers at the women’s shelter where Heather was staying, they were afraid to take her in. The only thing that’s going to protect Heather is having Frank declared a dangerous offender, so that he’s locked up for good.”

Suddenly the courtroom became deadly silent. The prosecutor got up to address the court:

“Your honor, you’ve got to lock up Frank indefinitely. This man has terrorized Heather for eight years. The combination of abuse, manipulation and control over her life makes the violence that much more heinous. He even tried to intimidate Heather when she was in the witness box. A psychiatrist described Frank as the most challenging case he’d ever seen. He hasn’t responded to treatment. He is a serious threat to society.”

The legal aid lawyer representing Frank got up. “Your honor, this court must not declare Frank a dangerous offender. That would mean an indeterminate sentence. He could end up staying in prison for the rest of his life. That’s usually reserved for murderers, rapists and pedophiles. Wife-beaters do not fall into the same category. Enlarging the category would severely threaten our democratic system.”

Should Frank be declared a dangerous offender? You! Be The Judge. Then look below for the court’s decision.


“I am declaring you a dangerous offender, Frank,” the judge decided. “An indeterminate sentence is necessary to protect the public. Though usually reserved for murderers, rapists and pedophiles, it is appropriate in a case of such severe domestic violence where there is a high risk of re-offending. The court must recognize the effects of long-term domestic abuse.”