The Malta Independent 25 May 2020, Monday

INDEPTH: Ankle bracelets being considered for domestic violence perpetrators – Commissioner

INDEPTH online Sunday, 8 March 2020, 10:08 Last update: about 3 months ago

An e-tagging system, ankle bracelets to keep tabs on those who are prevented from approaching someone due to a court-issued protection order, is currently being discussed, Commissioner for Domestic Violence Audrey Friggieri told The Malta Independent.

Interviewed on the latest episode of Indepth by The Malta Independent media consultant Rachel Attard, Friggieri was asked about problems in ensuring the protection of women who are victims of domestic violence and have gone to court to get a protection order against their aggressor.

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A protection order is an order issued by the courts to a person, ordering them not to approach or contact another person.  They are generally sought by victims of domestic violence in order to gain protection from their aggressor.

Friggieri noted that unfortunately there is a lacuna wherein women going through or having gone through domestic violence do not feel protected, even if the abuser has been removed from the house and instructed to not approach her.

"The person can still follow or contact them. He would be breaking the law, but ultimately, it's his own discretion," Friggieri said, lamenting that there were not any means to protect a woman even if they know they are at risk.

She said that as far as she was informed, ankle bracelets or any e-tagging systems are not being used, but said that this is a field where consultations are being held.

These discussions were amplified by the visit of the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO), which is an independent body within the Council of Europe responsible for monitoring the implementation of the terms of the Istanbul Convention across Europe.

Consultations into the introduction of these bracelets are ongoing, with Friggieri saying that they are key to ensure that women feel more protected, as it is ultimately their life which may be at stake if they are not protected.

Friggieri did not commit to any particular timeframe for the eventual introduction of this system, noting that they are currently waiting for the final GREVIO report and will proceed from there.

Meanwhile, Friggieri also noted that the law courts should consider creating a unit of judges who are solely focused on handling domestic violence cases.  She remarked that the delays which domestic violence victims face when they take their cases to court is an issue which needs to be solved.

She said that in the same way that the police will soon be setting up a unit dedicated to domestic violence cases, the courts should do the same. "There could be three judges who would concentrate specifically on domestic violence cases," she explained.

Friggieri added that she is in discussions with the law courts already, and that this is the idea which the commission will be pushing for.

The role of the police is a changing one in the domestic violence scenario as well.  While there have been a number of cases where various victims go to the police only to be turned away or told to forgive their partner - and aggressor, a renewed effort is being made to make the police corps more effective in dealing with such cases.

While training to police officers is held frequently, Friggieri explained, a dedicated unit which will give specific focus to domestic violence cases will be founded by the end of this year.

This unit will initially be based at the Police headquarters in Floriana, and any person who reports a case of domestic violence to a police station will be taken there directly, she said. The unit will eventually be spread to different hubs across the country, she continued, and will be initially formed of three teams who would work on a shift basis.

Audrey Friggieri was appointed as Commissioner for Domestic Violence last month, days after the murder of Chanelle Chetcuti in Żabbar. Her former partner stands charged with her murder.  Chetcuti's murder - the 16th of a woman in the past decade - once again shone a spotlight on the subject of domestic violence.

Prostitution reform is another hot topic in the current Maltese discourse.  Asked for her views on what model would be most suitable in this regard, Friggieri said that while there are a lot of models which can work, each must be adapted to the specific needs of the country.  This is the case with the Nordic model across different Scandinavian countries, she said.

However, she noted that her priority is always to safeguard the security of women.  She said that she agrees with the suggestion to, once prostitution is decriminalised, provide help to these women - be it in terms of education, health, or finances - in order to get out of the circle of prostitution.

Consultations, she explained, need to continue with all stakeholders in order to implement the best system for the country.

 


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