Against domestic abuse
No man should strike a woman or cause her harm. Two persons should be able to settle their differences through reasoning. If this cannot be done then they should seek help through counseling. Counseling is nothing to be ashamed of. By resolving the troublesome issue, there would be no scars to last a lifetime. Don’t make the matter fester so that the person who is abused ends up in court seeking protective orders.
When any member of the family, whether common-law or married spouse, is experiencing or is threatened with violence in the home by another member of the household, that person could apply to the Family Court for an order of protection. Application could be made on her own behalf or that of another member of the household. Where a child or dependent is concerned, a police officer, a social worker, a probation office, the Solicitor General, parent or guardian could make the application. A parent or relative of a spouse who is not a member of the respondent’s household could also make an application for protection order.
A person who intends to apply (the applicant) is required to fill out the relevant form to have the matter heard by the President of the Family Court. A date to attend court is given and the bailiff of the court would serve the respondent, that is, the person against whom the action is brought.
Section 4 of the Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act No. 13 of 1995, empowers the court to make an order to prevent the respondent who is causing or threatening violence to be excluded from the home or from entering the applicant’s work place or any specified place. If the application relates to a child who is at school, then the order will be in such terms to prevent the respondent from entering that institution.
The court may also order the respondent to cease from molesting the applicant or from making persistent telephone calls. It could also order the respondent to refrain from annoying or ill-treating the applicant, or from using abusive language to the applicant.
Power of arrest
Where the respondent has used violence or has threatened violence against the applicant and is likely to do it again, the court may attach a power of arrest to the protection order. Where the protection order has a power of arrest attached, a police officer may arrest the respondent without a warrant, if he or she breaches the order by committing an offence.
The police officer has to assess the situation and must make sure that the arrest is reasonably necessary. In doing so, he has to look at the seriousness of the breach and whether or not there is a cooling-off on the part of the respondent. If the respondent is taken into custody the cooling-off period must not be for more than 24 hours. Even though a power of arrest is not attached to the protection order a police officer could arrest the respondent based on the gravity of the situation.
A protection order may be made ex parte, that is, in the absence of the respondent, if the court is satisfied that delay would cause hardship, or injury, or jeopardize the safety of the applicant. The order must be served on the respondent personally.
If the respondent breaches a protection order, he is liable on conviction to a fine of not more than $5,000 or imprisonment for a term of not more than six months.
No one has to endure domestic violence. One must seek help immediately. Don’t be ashamed. Your life is at risk. It is hard to get over.
Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law. E-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org