I called the police
“I called the police, but nothing happened.” Time and time again we have heard this statement coming from persons who have been subject to domestic violence. In 2015 the legislative provisions pertaining to Domestic Violence here in SVG were revised.
The act gives a wide definition of domestic violence inclusive of physical abuse, threats of physical abuse, sexual abuse, threats of sexual abuse and threats of sexual abuse, emotional, verbal or psychological abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, stalking, property damage/destruction and entry into the applicant’s residence without consent (where the parties do not live together).
The act applies to relationships between adults as well as relationships between adults and children. We also need to look at the types of relationships that the act applies to and they are as follows:
- Married persons
- Persons who are living together
- Blood relatives
- Other relatives (e.g. in-laws)
- Persons in visiting relationships (including those in actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationships of any duration
- Persons with parental responsibility
- Persons who share or shared the same household or residence
Under the act persons referred to within the act as applicants, are now given the power to not only approach local law enforcement to register their complaints but may also approach the court directly. The Director of family services is given the power under the act to inform any person or victim of the reliefs available under the act. In the event that the police are approached criminal complaints may also be lodged if the act if it appears that a criminal offence has been committed.
What protections are offered under the act?
The primary source of protection under the act is a protection order. They may be both interim and final with a maximum duration of three years.
How do you get a protection order?
Protection orders may be applied for by the following persons:
- Members of shared households (either on their own behalf or on behalf of another member of the shared household)
- Parents or siblings related to EITHER the affected person or the abuser even if they are not a member of the household
- Persons who share children with the abuser
- Persons who are or have been in a visiting relationship with a person of the opposite sex for more than 1 year
- Persons who are or have been in a visiting relationship with a person of the opposite sex for a period of less than 1 year, provided they have obtained the consent of a social worker
Other persons such as police offers, and social workers may also make applications.
It must be noted that these persons must apply with the consent of the person concerned unless that person is a child, a dependent, physically or mentally incapacitated by unsoundness of mind or a disability, unconscious, under the influence of drugs or alcohol or a person whom the Court is satisfied is unable to provide the required consent.
Children and dependents (e.g. elders) may make applications for protection order through a person with whom they live or have lived with or are reliant upon for their welfare or any adult member of the household. Applications may also be made through other persons.
What is the extent of the protection order?
Protection orders may prohibit the respondent from:
- Committing any act of domestic violence
- Enlisting the help of any person to commit any act of domestic violence
- Entering the shared household (ONLY if it appears to be in the interest of the applicant or any child or dependent)
- Entering a specified part of the shared household
- Entering the residence of the applicant
- Entering the place of employment of the applicant
Preventing the applicant, any child or dependent who ordinarily resides or has resided in the shared household or a specified part of the shared household from:
- Taking possession of
- Converting or otherwise dealing with property that the applicant may have an interest in or is reasonable used by the applicant as the case may be
- Approaching the applicant within a specified distance or
- Committing any other act as specified in the order.
The respondent(abuser) may also be ordered to:
- Return specified property to the applicant
- Pay emergency monetary relief to the applicant
- Pay intereim monetary relief where there is no other maintenance order in place
- Immediately vacate the shared household for a specified period REGARDLESS of whose name the deed/ lease is in
- Make or continue to make rent or mortgage payments
- Receive professional counselling or therapy
The court may also limit or prohibit contact with a child.
If the court is satisfied that it was an isolated incident, the circumstances make it desirable to preserve the family unit and the conduct complained of is not sufficiently grave to warrant the imposition of the order or the penalty then based on the report of a social worker then a bond of good behavior may also be entered into for a maximum period of 6 months with the consent of the applicant.
Where the abuser breaches the protection order the court may impose a fine on first conviction of up to five thousand dollars or a term of imprisonment of up to three months. For a second conviction a fine of up to ten thousand and or a one year prison term may be imposed. On any subsequent conviction the abuser can be sentenced to serve up to five years in prison. For unreasonable breaches of an order to seek counselling or therapy the abuser can be fined up to ten thousand dollars.