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EOC head: Amend Domestic Violence Act, improve police response
Chairman of the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC) Lynette Seebaran Suite says certain amendments to the Domestic Violence Act coupled with a more appropriate police response could have prevented tragedies such as the Abigail Chapman quadruple murders in La Brea and domestic violence deaths in the future.
In a media release from the organization yesterday, Seebaran Suite outlined ten proposed amendments to the Domestic Violence Act.
Seebaran Suite said “The Equal Opportunity Commission condemns the recent spate of gender-based related deaths as a result of domestic violence.
“In 2017 of the 52 women murdered, 43 of these were due to domestic violence and in the first quarter of 2018 over 15 deaths have been recorded thus far.
“The Domestic Violence Act Chapter 45:56 ('the Act') is a progressive piece of legislation, but there is need to amend or enforce its provisions to zero tolerance, to provide further protection for victims and higher efficiency in enforcement.
“As such, in November 2017, the EOC proposed ten legislative and policy amendments to the act, at a public forum jointly hosted with the UWI Institute for Gender Development Studies commemorating the 16 days of activism on ending gender-based violence.”
She said these proposed amendments can be used to strengthen the accountability of the State and state actors to perform with due diligence to protect and prevent against gender-based domestic violence:
1. Remove the perpetrator from the home, not the victim (s. 23 (1) of the Act)
2. Police must respond to all complaints (s. 21).
3. Amend the definition of cohabitant to include same-sex relationships (s. 3).
4. Police must charge for assaults and other crimes committed in domestic situations (s. 25(1)) and for breaches of Protection Orders (s. 20).
5. No bail for persons charged with breaches of Protection Orders (s.27 (1)).
6. Provide a network of support to persons who have a Protection Order - observers must have a duty to report (new section).
7. Create intervention for perpetrators threatening to kill (new section).
8. Create interagency protocols between police, magistrates, prosecutors, social workers and shelters (new section).
9. Create mandatory programs for victims and perpetrators (s. 6 91) (c) (VII)).
10. Resuscitate Police Domestic Violence Register (s. 21 (2)).
Seebaran Suite said the commission believed that had these protocols been in place and a more appropriate police response forthcoming, all too predictable tragedies such as the Abigail Chapman murder could have been averted.
She said abuse in any form against any man, woman or child should not be tolerated.
The EOC is calling on the Attorney General & Minister of Legal Affairs Faris Al-Rawi to expedite these proposed amendments as a matter of urgency.
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