More calls for no-drop policy in domestic violence cases
THE Government is facing fresh calls to urgently amend the Domestic Violence Act so as to make it easier for perpetrators to be convicted, even if the victim decides not to continue with the case.
This time support for what has been dubbed a no-drop policy has come from policy and advocacy officer at Jamaica Aids Support for Life (JASL) Patrick Lalor and co-founder and development and training director for Eve for Life, Joy Crawford.
Addressing a Jamaica Observer Press Club on Wednesday to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) 2023, which is being commemorated today, Lalor and Crawford agreed that Jamaica needs to move to a position of evidence-based prosecution, which would proceed even if the victim stops cooperating with the police and/or prosecutors.
“Too many times we see the victims go, they give a statement, detail everything that is done, press charges, and then come to court and say, ‘Your Honour, a mi babyfada; mi beg you give him a chance,’ for whatever reasons,” noted Lalor.
“I am saying [pursue the case] once you have those matters where you have the documented evidence, because we have to bear in mind that our legal system requires a complainant and requires evidence that meets the standard of the Evidence Act,” added Lalor.
He pointed out that a number of perpetrators of gender-based violence get away with the crime because when the matter finally reaches the court, the victim has forgiven them.
“There is a cycle which involves the incident or angry stage where the victim says, ‘Lock him up, officer! Him do it all the while.’ Then it moves to the reconciliation stage — that is when the abuser starts to say, ‘Boy, you know me never did really mean fi box you, a through you bun up the rice. If you coulda cook better mi wouldn’t lick you.’
“When the court date comes three months later we are no longer at stage one, we are at stage four — the honeymoon stage when everybody forget that ‘mi did get lick, and box, and stab’, and that is the person you are seeing in court,” said Lalor as he pointed to the cycle which causes several of the cases to collapse.
In the meantime, Crawford said she has long held the position that the State should take over the prosecution in some cases of gender-based violence.
“But I don’t know if our constitution will allow that,” said Crawford as she noted that domestic violence is often dismissed as a “man and woman story”.
Crawford had previously pointed out that there are many jurisdictions which make a decision, based on the Government and the national policy, to protect women by a no-drop policy — even if the victim wants to walk away from the case.
“When a woman is raped, when a woman is beaten, when a woman is abused, her first reaction is not to go get legal advice, her first reaction is an emotional pain, a brokenness, a humiliation… so her head space is not there,” Crawford said.
“Her vulnerability and her dependency for many social reasons — including the ones where the society says, ‘Is your fault’, or ‘Yuh wicked fi send yuh man go prison’ — she will change her mind. She may say, ‘Not now’ or she may say, ‘I am not prepared to go before the court and face more public humiliation.’ There are many reasons, so that is why the State needs to stand for that woman. The State must say, ‘We are protecting you because you need protection,’ ” Crawford had told the Observer in a previous interview.