Special court to tackle domestic abuse

| 13/12/2018 | 26 Comments

Cayman News Service(CNS): The police, prosecutors, courts and community rehabilitation have entered into a wide agreement that they all hope will help improve and fast-track the handling of domestic abuse cases in the Cayman Islands. The deal paves the way for a specialist court as well as more focused support services for victims. Domestic violence was not always given the attention it deserved by the criminal justice system and even dismissed as a ‘private affair’, but with this the inter-agency agreement, it will receive much more focused attention and, it is hoped, speedier justice for all involved.

The aim is to improve court efficiency, victim safety, promote informed and consistent judicial decision-making, protect the rights of all concerned and increase confidence in the criminal judicial system.

The memorandum of understanding that establishes the new specialist court and enhanced services was published in the latest government gazette. It sets out what is expected of each of the agencies involved as each case progresses to ensure that they are steered through the system in a matter of weeks, instead of years in some cases in the past.

The agencies involved are aiming to improve the entire process, from the first report to the police all the way through to the release of an offender from prison, and ensure that victims are properly protected and supported while offenders are treated fairly.

Domestic abuse continues to be a uniquely challenging area of crime for society because of its impact on families — physically, emotionally and financially — and the knock-on effect on society. Officials said that increasing the community’s confidence in the ability of the justice system to successfully handle the cases is very important.

Detective Inspector Kevin Ashworth, who heads up the RCIPS Family Support Unit and Multi-Agency Safe-Guarding Hub, said the MOU and the new court aimed to take a “victim centred approach” to the cases and look after the needs of family members and children impacted directly or indirectly by the abuse, from the first report through to conviction and even after an offender is released.

He told CNS that the MOU places obligations on each of the agencies involved and an impetus for greater communication and collaboration to ensure cases move quickly. He said the aim is to ensure the necessary support is being provided to the victims throughout the life of a complaint, and not forgetting about those impacted by the violence once the investigation and court case starts to focus on the offender.

Ashworth explained that it was about simple things as well, like making sure a victim does not encounter an offender in the court space, preventing victims from having to come to court repeatedly by streamlining cases, and ensuring that the relevant agencies keep victims and stakeholders involved throughout the life of a given case, humanizing the process.

“We have to remember that we are dealing with human beings and not just case files,” Ashworth said, as he noted the significant advances already made with the creation of the Multi-Agency Safe-Guarding Hub, which has become a leading light in the region on how to deal with child abuse cases.

He accepted that there are still many challenges in dealing with domestic abuse, as is the case in all jurisdictions since the problems are not unique to Cayman. But he said this type of violent behaviour has a very wide impact beyond individual victims and is a real challenge for society. This new approach will help improve efficiency and enable the police and other relevant authorities to collect better data to help get and manage the necessary resources to address the crime and mitigate its impact.

The police have specific obligations relating to how reports of domestic abuse are handled and victims supported through the investigations and then into the courts. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions also has certain obligations within the agreement to reduce the delays in how cases are put together.

Patrick Moran, the acting director of public prosecutions, said that the specialist court is intended to improve efficiencies for these particular cases. “Victims of such offences are often amongst the most vulnerable members of our community,” he said in response to CNS inquiries about the role of prosecutors in this new court. “These new measures are intended to increase the level of support to such victims, to reduce delay, and to promote consistency of treatment of those concerned.”

He said it was about increasing confidence in victims who might otherwise remain silent, while also protecting the rights of the accused. “Any measure of success in achieving these objectives can only increase confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions welcomes this important new initiative, and will continue to seek to further its objectives,” he added.

Meanwhile, Court Administrator Suzanne Bothwell described the MOU as a way of ensuring consistent and seamless inter agency approach to the handling of high risk and serious domestic violence cases from complaint to completion.

“The MOU allows for these category of domestic violence cases to be identified, specifically by the RCIPS, at the time a report is made and to allocate it through a fast track scheme which allows for early rulings on the investigative files by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutor, and speedy resolution through the court, to the extent that charges filed are heard before the court the month the allegation is reported,” she said.

The court has significant challenges regarding space and judges because of the growing caseload of criminal cases, which over the last few years has made delays inevitable in all cases. While this is difficult for everyone involved in the criminal justice system, delays can be particularly hard on victims of domestic abuse. Bothwell explained that through the MOU, the court has set aside the first and third Friday of every month to hear fast-tracked domestic cases.

The MOU will also provide victims of high-risk domestic violence access to early support from the Department of Children and Family Services, counselling and other interventions to support their safety and general well-being. Bothwell added that the MOU is meant to reduce risk and ensure that these cases are treated with the seriousness and priority that they deserve.

See the full agreement in the CNS Library

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Category: Courts, Crime, Police

Comments (26)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I hope Patrick Moran, Kevin Ashworth, Paulinda Mendoza-Williams, and Suzanne Bothwell are reading these comments.

    Most men in Cayman are fully aware that they face discrimination by the police, prosecutors, social workers and courts when they make reports of domestic violence. This new fast tracked system is only going to see more more men suffer the consequences of prejudicial policing and court actions. This new system will be abused by the family court attorneys who ultimately control everything we see in this article. They are a huge driving force to all legislation of these types. Men will see themselves stripped of parental rights left right and centre as women file false allegations to see the case fast-tracked and receive subsequent benefit in “family court”.

    CNS – are you able to find out if this new system will be pursuing mandatory criminal charges for false allegations and if women will be held criminally accountable EVERYTIME they commit assault?

  2. Anonymous says:

    men get battered as well? i couldnt call the hotline? it ok…done with marriage…happily divorced…

  3. Anonymous says:

    Will this be the Court where politicians go to admit they attacked a woman and then be offered government positions by the Premier? Seems to be the current model.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Will you guys bother to report abusive expats to immigration, or not? Just asking. The crime is sickening. Allowing known foreign perpetrators to remain here just adds insult.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Does the abuse stem from expats being abused themselves? I wonder who would be doing that?

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      • Anonymous says:

        Abused expats should be protected, but that would require immigration to take proactive steps, and right now, they do not appear to do anything.

    • Anonymous says:

      If you are in an abusive domestic situation, you should report it and get out of there. It shouldn’t matter where the domestic abuser was from. That part comes later.

  5. BeaumontZodecloun says:

    Initially, reading the MOU, I thought to myself, “well, this should have already been part of legislation”, as the beginning talks about responses and evidence and chain-of-custody.

    Then we get to the good stuff. The quick response of the courts. WOW! World class. I am so glad to see this legislation come down. Long past due. DV isn’t always a man against a woman, but it IS always a crime against the family, and often a horror for the children.

    Kudos to all involved for shining a bright light on Domestic Violence. Never forget that EVERY occurrence of it is at least assault, if not battery.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    As a man I find your choice of picture offensive, and I am a man of colour , why couldn’t it be something neutral or no picture at all? Why does it have to be a man with a fist made? Men are victims in this despicable act too , ridiculous!

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    • Anonymous says:

      As a white man I find it offensive that you needed to mention your colour. What does colour have to do with anything? Only white men are abusive?

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    • Joe Ma says:

      While I agree that DV goes both ways, you only have to look at the statistics to see that the vast majority is in fact man on woman; so grow a pair, and stop being offended by a picture. You should be more offended by the act of DV.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Statistics only show what is reported. Men take mental abuse from women and have to deal with screaming or a terrible infantile attitude when they do not get what they want. But because of comments like yours, Men are afraid to report it as it would seem an anomaly when the truth is we have a hoax that enables women to continue getting away with mental abuse on a hideous and pervasive order.

        Your “grow a pair” fits perfectly into the narrative that a man who cannot control his women or cannot take the constant mental abuse some women dish out constantly is not a Man. Time for you to just “grow up” and recognize abusive partnerships take two to tango.

        The picture also fits nicely into the narrative. How come we never see a women and her friends screaming into the face of a bullied man? Because only men can bully?

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  7. Anonymous says:

    We need dedicated resources to focus on the very serious of domestic abuse against men.

    While all forms of domestic violence need greater attention men are oftentimes the silent and forgotten victims of domestic abuse. Men rarely report the abuse because society is programmed to look at men as weak and unmanly if they take any action to report or otherwise stop the abuse.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Stock photo is misleading. Women abuse men too.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    As a white male, I find your stock photo used to depict family violence prejudiced and offensive.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Why is saying “white” necessary? Unless you are one of those blacks who spray-paint anti-black or put up a noose on a tree to keep the lie alive that racism is still alive like it was back in the 20’s.

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    • anonymous says:

      shut up.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Donestic violence finds its roots in religion.
    The superiority of a man above woman and child, is the cause of this.
    You find that in every cult.
    Don’t flight tthe symptoms, but fight the cause: religion.

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    • Anonymous says:

      It all starts with Adam and Eve. Once you are made to believe that Eve was created for and from Adam, you’re done.
      The inequality of man and woman has been created with this story.

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