Sunday 21 July, 2019

Domestic violence guide coming for local courts

A magistrate says she has noticed a rise in parents making applications for protection orders against their children, one as young as 12 years old.

Issues like this will be addressed during a two-day workshop on domestic violence for magistrates and police officers. The workshop, which was launched today in the Supreme Court, will see Barbados' judicial system taking essential steps towards ensuring the “efficient and legally correct handling of domestic violence cases”.

The goal of the two-day workshop is to create a Barbados Domestic Violence Benchbook where related statutory and procedural rules will be easily accessible to Magistrates and Police of Barbados in the course of a hearing or other process.

National Center for State Courts members and Judge Carolyn Temin, a retired Pennsylvania judge and experienced Benchbook writer, will be working with local magistrates and police officials to “ensure that the finished product specifically addresses the needs of...the legal and social services community in Barbados”.

“A Benchbook should contain all the information that practitioners will need, organised in a format that makes the information instantly accessible,” Judge Temin explained, adding that it was also a teaching tool.

It will include a Definitions chapter which will contain those definitions from the relevant statutes that pertain to domestic violence cases.

Other chapters are: Police Authority to Issue Protection Orders, Magistrates Authority Under The New Law and one concerning the social services available to the Court and Police for both victims and offenders.

The retired American judge said an immediate reference would be found “without having to go through the whole statute and looking back and forth; it is all in one place”.

The Benchbook is designed as a practical resource for the efficient handling of domestic violence cases under the recently 2016 amended Barbados Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act, Cap 130A.

Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson said the project was started two years ago but suffered a “hiccup” as they were awaiting the enactment of the Act.

The benchbook is primarily for magistrates and “all agencies that have some role to play in dealing with the incidents of domestic abuse in Barbados”.

Mention was made of the importance of the police's participation in the workshop.

“It is good sense in having our police force at this workshop because they are the first responders; they are where it starts and a lot of what we do in the magistrates' courts depends heavily on the evidence gathered by the police,” Sir Marston said.

He made reference to a Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) report which was considered “a poor indictment on the police force in England”.

The report, which was carried out four years ago, set out to examine the effectiveness of the police's approach to domestic violence. However, the overall response was deemed “not good enough”.

There was some turnaround after the report, however, as the force made a determined effort to make such cases priority.

The hope is that the Benchbook will ensure success in terms of the police's handling of domestic abuse cases.

“Domestic abuse is a [not only] Barbadian problem: it's a worldwide problem,” the Chief Justice said.

“Domestic abuse is everyone's business...we have to deal with [it] as if it's an everyday occurrence improving on our game so that when it happens our reaction is both appropriate and necessary”.

The Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, Supreme Court Registrar, Magistrates, Members of the Royal Barbados Police Force, Probation Department and social serve agencies were in attendance.

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