Dominica: Domestic Violence Act passes in parliament, Cassanni Laville says it will empower victim

Domestic Violence Act 2023 has passed in the parliament sitting in Dominica. Cassanni Laville- Minister for Health, Services and Wellbeing presented the legislation and stated that the new legislation governed the protection and well-being of the vulnerable population

Dominica: Domestic Violence Act passes in parliament, Cassanni Laville says it will empower victim
Dominica: Domestic Violence Act passes in parliament, Cassanni Laville says it will empower victim

Roseau, Dominica: Domestic Violence Act 2023 has passed in the parliament sitting in Dominica. Cassanni Laville- Minister for Health, Services and Wellbeing presented the legislation and stated that the new legislation governed the protection and well-being of the vulnerable population. He said that the different clauses of the bill will empower the victim with access to much need care and protection.

He said that the Domestic Violence Bill seeks to provide greater protection for victims of domestic violence and to make provision for granting of protection orders and for related matters in Dominica. “Domestic violence is a serious crime in our society we have witnessed firsthand that domestic violence has devastating consequences for victims their families and friends and even the wider community as a result a wide cross-sector of stakeholders was engaged for consultation both locally and regionally with discussions commencing as far back as 2002,” said the minister.

Outlining the different clauses of the bill, Cassanni Laville- Minister of Health of Dominica noted:

  • Clause 2 defines the words and phrases to be used throughout the bill. Domestic violence is defined as any controlling or abusive behavior conduct or act that harms or endangers the health safety life, limb, or well-being whether mental or physical of a person or any child and includes physical abuse or threats of physical abuse, sexual abuse or threats of sexual abuse, emotional, verbal or psychological abuse, coercion molestation, arbitrary deprivation of Liberty or forced confinement, economic abuse, intimidation harassment stalking including cyber stalking damage to applicants’ residents without consent where the parties do not share the same residence. Cluster of the bill prohibits the conduct that constitutes domestic violence.
  • Clause 4 states that this is the duty of the police officer upon arrival at the scene of an incident of domestic violence to inform the victim and the perpetrator of his or her rights.
  • Considering the Urgent and need to respond to domestic violence matters and the possible risk of physical and mental injuries as well as the possibility of hospitalization Swift response from the police can in some cases prevent the escalation of domestic violence incidences and prevent further injury.
  • Clause 5 of the bill provides foreign arrest by a police officer without a warrant subject to Clause 23. The bill provides that a police officer may without a warrant arrest any person at the scene of an incident of domestic violence whom he or she reasonably suspects of having committed an offense containing an act of domestic violence.

Clauses 7 to 21 in part two of the bill provide for protection orders.

  • By weight of clause 7, an application for a protection order may be brought on behalf of a victim by any person including a police officer or an approved social worker who has a material interest in the well-being of the victim. This Clause allows for the protection of a victim even when he or she may still be vulnerable.
  • Clause 8 provides for the court to issue an interim protection order which must be issued ex-party pending the hearing and determination of the proceedings for a protection order if it appears necessary to do so in order to ensure the safety and protection of the applicant.
  • By virtue of subclause six of clause 8 an interim order may be made for such period as the court considers necessary but such period must not exceed 28 days.
  • By virtue of sub Clause 7 of Clause 8 and interim protection order is automatically extended for a period of 15 days if the court is unable to hear and determine the proceedings before the expiry of the period in such section 6.
  • Clause 10 provides for the matters to be considered by the court in determining whether or not to impose one or more of the prohibitions specified in Clause 9.
  • Clause 11 would require the respondent to provide an undertaking given on oath that the respondent shall not engage in conduct specified in the application for a protection order or any other conduct that constitutes domestic violence.
  • The provisions regarding the seizure of firearms and dangerous weapons in domestic violence situations are contained in Clause 12. The court may make an order directing a police officer to seize any Firearms or dangerous weapon in possession of the respondent. If the affidavit made under Section 77 contains information to the effect that the respondent has threatened or expressed the intention to kill or injure a person in a domestic relationship in opposition to the fire ammunition or dangerous weapon it is not in the best interest of the respondent
  • Clause 13 mixed provision for the service of notice of the proceeding.
  • Clause 14 for service other than personal service and Clause 15 provides for the filing of affidavits
  • Clause 16 of the bill makes provision for the court to issue a final protection order and this order will be for a period as the court considers necessary but shall not exceed three years.
  • By virtue of Clause 17 where the court proposes to make an interim protection order or final protection order and the respondent is before the court the court has the duty to explain to the respondent the nature terms and consequences of the order
  • By virtue of clause 18 the respondent shall not be bound by a final protection order unless he or she has notice of the order.
  • Clause 19 provides for variation and revocation of an interim protection order or a final protection order.
  • Clause 20 makes provision for the service of a protection order and Clause 21 makes provision for the enforcement of the interim protection order and the final protection order and provides a penalty for the breach of any such order.

Part three of the domestic violence Bill provides for police powers of Entry unrest and contains Clauses 22-28.

  • Clause 22 makes it mandatory for police officers to respond to every complaint or report a legend of domestic violence whether or not the person making the complaint or report is the victim.
  • Clause 23 of the bill provides for the issue of a warrant of arrest and Clause 24 mixed provision for the powers of a police officer to arrest even without a warrant.
  • Clause 25 places a duty of a police officer who has entered the premises pursuant to Clauses 5 23 and 24 (1) to assist the victim of domestic violence whilst Clause 26 provides for a warrant of arrest and procedure upon arrest of a respondent with the court issues and interim protection order.
  • Clause 27 provides for the powers of arrest where final protection orders in force if a final protection order is in force and the police officer believes on reasonable grounds that the respondent has committed or is committing a breach of the final protection order the police officer may arrest and detain the respondent without a warrant.
  • Clause 28 makes Provisions for the existing criminal law to apply in relation to offenses committed under this bill

Part 4 of the bill contains Clauses 29 through 42 provide for miscellaneous provisions, the Minister added that:

  • Clause 29 provides for the conduct of proceedings and details the people who may be present during the hearing of any proceedings and does not limit any of the power of the court to hear proceedings in camera or to exclude any person from the court.
  • On Clause 30 which speaks to evidence in a proceeding pursuant to the bill other than criminal proceedings the court may receive such evidence as it thinks fit wherever it is otherwise admissible in a court of law.
  • Clause 31 provides for the standard of proof whereby a question of fact arising in the proceedings under this act other than in criminal proceedings shall be decided on a balance of probabilities.
  • Clause 32 provides for the Restriction of publication of reports however Clause 33 provides for orders to be meant to be made with the consent of the parties to a proceeding.
  • The provision for appeals is provided for in Clause 34 a person aggrieved by an order of the court or the refusal of the court to make an order may within 28 days after the decision of the Court appeal to the court of appeal.
  • Clause 35 makes provision for the protection of mortgages this section provides for the rights conferred on a person in respect of any property to be subjected to the rights of a person entitled to the benefit of any mortgage security charge or encumbrance affecting the property under certain conditions.
  • Clause 36 provides for rules of the court to be made by the chief justice but 37 provides for property rights which states that this act shall not be constructed as altering the rights of a spouse in respect to ownership of any real personal movable or immovable property.
  • Clause 38 places an obligation on a specified group of persons to provide notification of domestic violence of children notwithstanding the provisions of any other law. However, a person referred to in the specified group of persons is not liable in respect of any notification given in good faith under this section.
  • Clause 39 weeks provision for bill with several areas to be considered if the court is required to determine whether to grant bale in respect of an offense committed under this act. These include the need to protect the applicant from domestic violence the welfare of a child or a dependent any hardship that may be caused to the respondent or other members of the family if bale is not granted among others.
  • Clause 40 makes provision for offenses and penalties and 41 makes provision for regulations that the minister may make while Clause 42 provides for repeal.