PTI has courts in its sights

Wednesday January 30, 2019 Written by Published in Health
PTI has courts in its sights

The Women’s Counselling Centre in Rarotonga has put its foot down and will review orders from the Cook Islands High Court in regards to domestic violence matters.

 Punanga Tauturu (PTI) co-ordinator Rebeka Buchanan says: “We are reviewing orders from the court, we are holding off court orders for counselling, because there is a great need to educate people on this issue.”

And that includes Justices of the Peace, she says.

Buchanan says in the past the courts, police and lawyers have used the counselling centre as a means to review court matters.

She says while the Justices of Peace adjourn cases, the defendants undergo counselling.

Buchanan says in order to review this, she hopes to organise a training programme for Justices of Peace who needed to understand domestic violence against women and children and its effects.

Buchanan says the court needed to see what other options can be a form of punishment for defendants, instead of waiting for police advice, or the defence counsels, or a letter from the PTI.

She says the court must order counselling as one of the means of sentencing the defendant, not a means to review the defendant’s sentencing.

She says the withdrawal of such cases did not look legal at all, and it was important to take a firm stand on options for these matters.

Buchanan believes it is time that professional decisions be made for such matters.

“Letting them (defendants) go, or accepting the withdrawal of such matters, does not solve the issue. It will continue.

“We must try to investigate and find out, how long has this victim been assaulted, how many times has the defendant appeared before the court, talk to the children who are greatly affected.”

She added: “This is where the gap is. The court must take responsibility. Education on this issue is very important.

“I am not criticising anyone’s role, but we need to understand how the withdrawal of a case can affect a woman and a child if they face the same violence again.”

Meanwhile, police spokesman Trevor Pitt said the recent decrease in recorded domestic violence cases may be a reflection of the broad efforts and ongoing campaigns by police and civil society. 

“There is a concerted effort with agencies co-operating and public awareness building.  The police have a ‘no-drop policy’, which means assault cases are pursued right through to prosecution in the court.”

When such cases are before the court, Pitt said it is in the court arena that victims often withdraw their complaints. 

“It is up to the court to make that decision, not the police. The police will provide its own submissions in such cases.”

He said the court is where a majority of complaints result in withdrawal.

He said the police firm stand on “a no-drop policy” against domestic violence has contributed to the reduced number of domestic violence cases since 2015.

 “Statistically, domestic violence incidents reported to the police have trended downward since 2015. That’s three consecutive drops from 231 in 2015 to 166 last year.

“Stats alone do not do justice to the nature of violence against women or in some cases, children.  Nor do they provide an accurate analysis when taken over a longer period - say 10 years,” Pitt said.

He said statistics fluctuated and there have been no discernible pattern since 2010. 

He said in terms of disputes, the police can issue a Safety Order to assist complainants. 

“Essentially, this is a mechanism to separate the conflicting parties by removing the offender from the property. 

“It expires after five days during which time the parties concerned can resolve their issues.  If not, the court is where complainants can seek further steps, such as a Temporary Protection Order.”

Pitt said police have also engaged in home visits, where Prevention Officers have the opportunity to talk with unstable couples and families about any issues.

He added the main factors to domestic violence are alcohol, financial problems and the disruptive influence of third parties, such as friends, relatives, or ex-partners. 

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