Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: The application and effectiveness of the domestic violence act, especially with regard to protection orders for victims of domestic violence; statistics on the number of cases being brought to court; police effectiveness with regard to domestic violence, including procedures followed by the police and victim when filing a complaint (whether victim can obtain a copy of the complaint); number of female officers on the police force; whether medical personnel are required to report abuse to the authorities; if so, whether doctors provide medical certificates/documents to the police; availability of shelters for victims of domestic violence (2003-2005)
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Ottawa|
|Publication Date||27 October 2005|
|Citation / Document Symbol||VCT100755.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: The application and effectiveness of the domestic violence act, especially with regard to protection orders for victims of domestic violence; statistics on the number of cases being brought to court; police effectiveness with regard to domestic violence, including procedures followed by the police and victim when filing a complaint (whether victim can obtain a copy of the complaint); number of female officers on the police force; whether medical personnel are required to report abuse to the authorities; if so, whether doctors provide medical certificates/documents to the police; availability of shelters for victims of domestic violence (2003-2005), 27 October 2005, VCT100755.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/440ed75f37.html [accessed 21 April 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Application and effectiveness of the law
In 13 October 2005 correspondence, an official with the government's Gender Affairs Division provided the following information:
The Domestic Violence Act is applied – protection orders are issued and applied. There are concerns about how victims continue to protect their partners i.e. they often change their minds about giving evidence in court or even refrain from reporting in cases where [their partner] break[s] the Protection Order. This is especially so when victims feel threatened or become afraid of the impending actions of their partners.
Generally, the gender affairs official noted, domestic violence victims have the option of seeking the following services: Police intervention, Family Court intervention, and mediation and counselling services from the Family Court, the family services division, and the non-governmental organization Marion House. Regarding Family Court intervention, the gender affairs official stated that in addition to the Protection and Occupation Orders used to safeguard women and children against abuse, "Maintenance Orders for the support of children can now be enforced." However, the official also noted, a legal aid system for those unable to take legal action against their abusive partners because of low-income did not exist.
In 24 October 2005 correspondence, an official working for the Family Court provided statistics on the number of Protection and Occupation Orders made during 2003, 2004 and January to 10 October 2005. In summary, there were 201 applications for Protection Orders made in 2003, 197 in 2004, and 284 from January to 10 October 2005 (St. Vincent 24 Oct. 2005). Subsequently, of the total number of applications for Protection Orders made in 2003, 111 were granted, and the rest were either "struck out," dismissed, or withdrawn (ibid.). For 2004, 97 Protection Orders were granted, and by 10 October 2005, 68 Protection Orders had been granted (ibid.).
With regard to Occupation Orders, 98 applications were made in 2003, 69 in 2004, and 114 from January to 10 October 2005 (ibid.). Similar to the case of Protection Order statistics, fewer Occupation Orders were granted than filed: 29 in 2003, 18 in 2004 and 7 for the period covering 2005 (ibid.).
Please see the attached table outlining the number of Protection and Occupation Orders made from 2003 to 10 October 2005 (ibid.).
The Family Court official noted that the "law does not contemplate the imposition of punitive sanctions on the first application for domestic violence relief" (ibid.). However, the official stated that an applicant could "proceed under the criminal laws for relief as regards to assault and other abuses" (ibid.). In addition, the Family Court official mentioned that the Court does not impose a fine against a victim who has brought charges against her abuser but refuses to testify in court (ibid.).
In a 5 October 2005 telephone interview, an official with the public relations department of the Royal Police Force of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines stated that the law is very useful in allowing the police to carry out their work to address domestic violence. For example, if a protection order were breached, the police would arrest the individual who violated it.
According to an non-governmental organization (NGO) representative who works with the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association (SVGHRA) and is also involved with the organization Marion House, the Domestic Violence Act is being invoked (24 Oct. 2005). The Family Court regularly carries out in-camera hearings that include relevant parties such as the victim, witnesses and the perpetrator (SVHGHRA and Marion House 24 Oct. 2005).
Police procedure and effectiveness
The police official noted that law enforcement officers respond to all domestic violence calls, and that for each call a report is supposed to be made (St. Vincent 5 Oct. 2005). Victims who file complaints are able to receive a copy of the complaint from the police. In the case of extreme violence, the police follow mandatory arrest procedures (ibid.). However, a major problem for police in addressing domestic violence cases is that often victims withdraw their complaint or testimony against their abusive partner (ibid.; ibid. 13 Oct. 2005).
With regard to aggressors who are high-ranking officials or police officers, the police official stated that police would treat them in the "same way" they would address a regular citizen, and noted that government officials were "not above the law" (ibid. 5 Oct. 2005).
Regarding police effectiveness, the gender affairs official claimed that police response to domestic violence was sometimes inconsistent and inadequate (ibid. 13 Oct. 2005). For example, while in some cases the police "refer the matter to the Family Services Division or the Family Court," in other cases the police "task the woman to try to reconcile with her partner" (ibid.). Without providing any examples about police inadequacy, the gender affairs official stated that the police were "often accused of not dealing with domestic violence in the most satisfying manner" (ibid.).
The NGO representative explained that when a victim files a complaint at the police station, the police request that the victim go to a clinic with a special form provided by the police to record any injuries (SVGHRA and Marion House 24 Oct. 2005). This action begins the process of dealing with the victim's domestic violence claim (ibid.). Subsequently, victims can request a copy of a complaint they have filed with the police (ibid.).
However, with regard to police effectiveness, the NGO representative stated that, in her opinion, the police did not follow through effectively on enforcing the law, especially with regard to protection orders (ibid.). Because Saint Vincent is a "small society" where everyone knows each other, it is sometimes difficult for officers who may know the abuser to be sensitive towards the victim of domestic violence (ibid.). This is especially true if the police receive a call from the partner or spouse of a fellow officer; in a case involving another officer, according the NGO representative, the police would not respond effectively (ibid.).
Number of female officers
The police official noted that of a force staffed by about 800 officers, roughly 10 per cent are female, and many of these female officers work on domestic violence cases (St. Vincent 5 Oct. 2005). While no formal domestic violence unit exists within the force, about 200 officers have been trained to address domestic violence calls (ibid.).
With regard to medical certificates, both government sources stated that medical personnel are required to report domestic abuse to the police (St. Vincent 5 Oct. 2005; ibid. 13 Oct. 2005). According to the gender affairs official, medical practitioners "do provide medical certificates and other documentation to the police" (ibid.). The police official also noted that they provide a medical form for victims of domestic violence, to be filled out by the doctor attending to the victim (ibid. 5 Oct. 2005; SVGHRA and Marion House 24 Oct. 2005).
However, the NGO representative from the SVGHRA and Marion House noted that while medical personnel may report domestic violence if they are sensitive to the situation, doing so is not mandatory (24 Oct. 2005). This information was corroborated by the Family Court official who stated that to her knowledge "there is no legal basis for mandatory reporting of cases of abuse or suspected abuse to the Police" (St. Vincent 24 Oct. 2005). The Family Court official did note, however, that doctors "do provide medical certificates in the context of trials before the Court," but was unaware of whether doctors provided certificates to the police in circumstances beyond trials (ibid.).
While the police official had heard about plans to build a shelter for women fleeing domestic violence, he did not know the status of this proposed shelter (ibid. 5 Oct. 2005). The gender affairs official stated that a shelter for women fleeing domestic violence did not currently exist, even though a building was bought and was "earmarked for renovations" (ibid. 13 Oct. 2005). According to the Family Court official, apparently there are plans to establish a shelter, however, no shelter currently exists (ibid. 24 Oct. 2005). The SVGHRA and Marion House representative stated that no shelter exists for domestic violence victims (24 Oct. 2005).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 24 October 2005. Family Court. Correspondence received from an official.
_____. 13 October 2005. Ministry of Social Development. Gender Affairs Division. Correspondence received from an official.
_____. 5 October 2005. Royal Police Force. Telephone interview with an official within the public relations department.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Human Rights Association and Marion House. 24 October 2005. Telephone interview with a representative.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 24 October 2005. Family Court. Correspondence received from an official.
Additional Sources Consulted
Internet sites, including: Amnesty International, Factiva, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, World News Connection (WNC).