All reported matters of domestic violence must be taken seriously
Police officers to whom reports of domestic violence are reported are required by the Domestic Violence Act (2015) to investigate all reports.
“Every single matter of domestic violence when reported to the police must be taken seriously, and this Act says to the police that, you cannot tell people, a woman or a man for that matter, who goes to the police and report a matter of domestic violence to go home, sleep, make up, wake up,” Minister of National Mobilization etc. Frederick Stephenson said in Parliament on Thursday, February 6 as he contributed to debate on the 2020 budget.
“The Act provides broad outlines of what is to be done,” the Minister added.
His comments come in the wake of the shooting death of nurse Arianna Taylor-Israel who was killed last week Thursday. Taylor-Israel was said to have made several reports of threats to her life, allegedly by her husband, but the police did not act.
The Minister said that in 2015 the government passed the Domestic Violence Act which replaced the Domestic Violence Summary Proceedings Act of 1995, and the new Act provides a road map of response mechanisms for reporting of domestic violence, and speaks of the avenues for action for victims, such as their rights to protection, and support among other things.
Minister Stephenson said that a few days ago he was listening to radio and people seemed confused, saying that the Domestic Violence Act was passed in 2015 but has not been in force.
He said that is not the case as the Act was proclaimed in 2015, the same year it was passed.
He added too, that this piece of legislation is one of five in the package of the OECS model of legislation, and SVG has passed all five and must be commended for this.
“Persons have still yet to understand what they need to do in their report in a matter of domestic violence,” Stephenson added.
He pointed out that when a report is made to the police, the response mechanism is instantly activated and what that means is, according to Section 19 of the Domestic Violence Act, the police have a mandate for receiving and investigating these reports.
“…and as such, it is necessary for these reports to be lodged at the police station and a medical form be given to the victim so it can be taken to a medical practitioner, and when that medical form is returned, the police will continue their investigations,” explained Stephenson.
He added also that the police, under the Act, have the right and the power to act without a warrant in cases where there is reasonable cause to believe, that not to act will result in injury or death.
He also noted that Section 22 of the Act spells out the duty of the police when entering premises where domestic violence has taken place, and also, what should be done if persons are injured, or, what is to be done for the welfare or safety of any child or dependent, or to prevent any other breach of the law.
“It is all laid out in the Act,” stressed Stephenson noting that the government is mandated to assist victims of domestic violence through the Gender Affairs Division.
He added also that, the Division has a mandate to receive information from the public, and respond to alleged acts of domestic violence. The division can also conduct assessments in collaboration with the police.
“We have strategic interventions, the Gender Affairs Division works with all the local institutions, Marion house, Family Court, the Attorney General’s Chambers and the Police,” the Minister said.
He noted that, in 2019, the Gender Affairs Division held outreach programs in several communities with Parents Teachers Associations at schools, and also in October of that same year, worked with stakeholders in a ‘16 days of activism’ initiative based on gender violence.
“While the public is requested to report incidents of domestic violence, and especially violence against women, I am saying one case of domestic violence is one case too many, and I therefore call for all of us here to seek to work together to stamp out the scourge of domestic violence from among our nation,” stressed Stephenson.
He added that an ‘all hands-on deck’ approach is needed, and his Ministry’s mandate is to engage in social transformation and social protection.
“In SVG the Ministry has recognized that there is an increasing number of violence-based crimes and other crimes, particularly, crimes against our women and girls.
“This minister and the Ministry and Government on a whole- we continue to condemn all forms of violence and stand committed as an agent of change to work in partnership with all institutions to eradicate all forms of violence,” said Minister Stephenson.