AJA Logo

AJAs 2020 Finalists

The Serrece Winter story


Slug/Label The Serrece Winter story
Date Aired or Published Nov 9, Nov 12, Dec 10, 2020
Media outlet where first aired or published: CBC Nova Scotia
Name of Program: CBC Nova Scotia News
If co-produced, list partner:
Location: Dartmouth, Nova Scotia
List awards, grants:
Running time (TV/Radio): 5:48 / 1:31 / 3:29

Short explanation of the story and how it developed:

Despite policing and justice initiatives, and years of awareness campaigns and public funding to end the domestic violence, it continues to cause physical and psychological harm, and death. The violence leaves survivors in fear of their attacker, and only a fraction of them find the courage to report the crime. My series of exclusive stories about Serrece Winter, a domestic violence survivor, show how a well-intentioned but heavy-handed prosecution strategy backfired when she didn't show up to testify in court against her ex-boyfriend, and an order was issued for her arrest. Winter provided permission to share a shocking video of her incarceration at the Halifax police lockup. My editor gave me couple of days to prepare the initial story for publication and broadcast on web, TV, radio news and current affairs. My reporting exposed that under this prosecution policy, the justice system can inflict punishment and harm on domestic violence victims. When Winter didn't show up in court to testify against her ex, she was jailed, strapped into a restraint chair, and then charged with assaulting an officer. My report prompted emotional responses from the Nova Scotia premier and two of his cabinet ministers as they decried the actions of police and the prosecution. A mental health law expert, social workers, and transition house workers all condemned police and prosecution policy changes that balance the needs of victims. They all wanted justice for Winter. Change is on the way. The Nova Scotia justice minister has ordered a review of police, prosecution and court services actions in this case with the goal of preventing this treatment of a victim from happening again. Were it not for my reporting, Winter would be facing the prospect of her first criminal conviction for assaulting an officer in the jail cell. The assault charge was swiftly dropped after my initial stories aired. In the courtroom, Winter’s lawyer quoted CBC stories which denounced HRP and prosecution treatment of Winter. The judge commended the lawyer’s handling of the case as “justice working behind the scenes.” Having a criminal record would have made it almost impossible for Winter to find a job to lift herself out of poverty. And she says she would have lived in fear of retribution by police officers. The widespread public support Winter received after my stories aired have helped to restore her self-confidence and feel “believed,” she said. Just one month after the original story aired, she summoned the strength to testify against her attacker on an outstanding set of charges. That trial is continuing.

Resources of the newsroom (money and time) available to complete the story:

I pursued this story over several days with support from assignment producers, videographers and editors.

Return to list of finalists