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‘Protection orders worthless’
Cases of domestic violence and child abuse are on the rise in T&T and over the last two years, more than 57,000 applications for protection orders have been made.
According to attorney and lecturer at the Hugh Wooding Law School Alana Jameson during a march earlier this year against domestic violence, the statistics were released from the Judiciary of T&T and covered the period 2016 to 2017.
On June 18 Nadine Smith, 35, was found dead by her three children at her home at Dundonald Hill in St James.
An autopsy revealed that she died from blunt force trauma to the head–she was bludgeoned to death.
Police officers confirmed that Smith, who was married for the past five years, had recently taken out a restraining order against a close male relative.
According to statistics sent to the Sunday Guardian by the International Women’s Resource Network (IWRN), in the past two years more than 50 women who obtained protection or restraining orders against their estranged husbands/partners are now dead.
IWRN’s president Adriana Sandrine Rattan, on the heels of Smith’s murder, had called on authorities to review the methods used by women to protect themselves from abusive partners, including the granting of restraining and protection orders from the court.
Last week, Rattan and her IWRN team sent a comprehensive correspondence to Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi requesting urgent attention and amendments to Protection Orders. “We cannot disclose all suggestions and recommendations but we have asked that certain parts of the Domestic Violence Act be amended to specifics which will leave less room for loopholes.”
Rattan also added that the organisation have asked for the AG’s office to conduct training/sensitization workshops for all Judiciary workers and police officers.
Volney called for electronic bracelets
Former minister of justice under the last People’s Partnership administration, Herbert Volney in piloting the Electronic Monitoring Bill 2011 alluded to the fact that protection orders could not be enforced against someone who wanted to harm the other party.
Volney further explained to the Sunday Guardian that he advocated for an order by the magistrate that the person against whom the order is made should be forced to wear a bracelet while the other carried a device so that the monitoring authorities could forewarn of a distance breach of the protection order.
“The police would be notified and the person against whom the order was made immediately arrested for breach and brought up for sentencing. As it is now, the order is worthless to protect the other party,” Volney said.
‘Implement emergency hearings’
A police officer, who wished not to be identified, also weighed in on the issue saying that there must be a process whereby with any application for a domestic violence protection order or any report of domestic violence an immediate detention order accompanies it, in which the alleged offender must show just cause as to why such an order should not be granted/enforced.
“A system of emergency hearings at 24-hour magistrate family courts can accommodate this, especially where vulnerable women with children are involved,” the officer said.
“Unless something is done to give the protection that is needed between the issue date and date of service of these orders there will forever be murder victims who the orders failed to protect, thereby rendering them otiose!”
PROCEDURE TO OBTAIN PROTECTION ORDER
i. The applicant goes to the court’s registry at the respective Magistrate’s Court;
ii. The applicant speaks to the Clerk of the Peace, who identifies the problem and determines whether it is a domestic violence matter or a matter for another court;
iii. The applicant pays $3 in cash or the value of $3 in stamps for filing a domestic violence complaint;
iv. The Clerk of the Peace then prepares the complaint and summons and at the same time fixes the date of hearing within seven days of the filing of the application;
v. The applicant is required to sign the complaint;
vi. The applicant takes the summons to be served on the respondent to the police or may be served by the applicant or his/her agent.
BREACH AND FINES
*An order can last for as long as a magistrate thinks it is necessary; but not longer than three years;
*Once aware of the order, the respondent must comply with its terms;
*Failure to fulfil the terms according to Section 20 of the Act - the first-time breach, the penalty is a maximum fine of $9,000.00 or in default, a maximum of three months in prison;
*On a second breach, the maximum fine is $15,000.00 or in default, imprisonment for a period of 24 months;
*The magistrate can order that the respondent pay the fine and serve time in prison;
*If after the second conviction the respondent breaches the terms of the order, the magistrate can sentence him/her to a maximum of five years imprisonment.
THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE (ELECTRONIC MONITORING) BILL, 2011
The purpose of this bill is to make provision for the introduction of electronic monitoring in T&T, at different stages of the criminal justice process and as a condition of a Protection Order, granted under section 5 of the Domestic Violence Act, Chap. 45:56.
Domestic Violence Chap. 45:56
6. (1) A Protection Order may—
(a) prohibit the respondent from—
(i) engaging or threatening to engage in conduct which would constitute domestic violence towards the applicant;
(ii) being on premises specified in the Order, that are premises frequented by the applicant including any residence, property, business, school or place of employment;
(iii) being in a locality specified in the Order;
(iv) engaging in direct or indirect communication with the applicant;
(v) taking possession of, damaging, converting or otherwise dealing with property that the applicant may have an interest in, or is reasonably used by the applicant, as the case may be;
(vi) approaching the applicant within a specified distance;
(vii) causing or encouraging another person to engage in conduct referred to in paragraphs (i) to (vi);
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