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Saint Lucia: An update on the domestic violence situation; statistical information regarding Family Court protection measures; status of Women's Support Centre and legal aid; the efficacy of police intervention in domestic violence situations; accessibility of police and medical reports; gender-based violence statistics, and Criminal Code amendments (2003-2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 4 January 2006
Citation / Document Symbol LCA100713.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Saint Lucia: An update on the domestic violence situation; statistical information regarding Family Court protection measures; status of Women's Support Centre and legal aid; the efficacy of police intervention in domestic violence situations; accessibility of police and medical reports; gender-based violence statistics, and Criminal Code amendments (2003-2005), 4 January 2006, LCA100713.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f147682f.html [accessed 31 August 2014]
DisclaimerThis 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.

Information about the situation of domestic violence was limited among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

In 14 November 2005 correspondence, the President of the St Lucia Crisis Centre provided the following information. The Center had seen 50 domestic violence cases in 2003 and 6 in 2004. Statistics for 2005 were not yet available.

In information provided to Country Reports 2004, government authorities saw 31 cases of domestic violence in 2003 and 34 cases in 2004 (28 Feb. 2005, Sec 5). According to Freedom House, an increased recognition of gender-based violence has "led the government and advocacy groups to take steps to offer better protection for victims of domestic violence" (11 Aug. 2005).

Correspondingly, the St Lucia Crisis Centre President noted that women confronting domestic violence could access the following entities: The Family Court for a Protection Order, the Women's Support Centre for protection "in extreme cases of threat to life," the Saint Lucia Crisis Centre, and the Domestic Violence Unit of the Royal St Lucia Police Force (14 Nov. 2005).

Family Court

The Family Court "sits in the First Judicial District every day except on Thursdays when it sits in the Second Judicial District" and is

victim friendly in that the victim does not have to seek the services of a Lawyer. After making a report directly at the Court to one of its resident social workers, a case is immediately filed; in cases where it is of urgency the magistrate hears the matter immediately. There is one of three Orders depending on the gravity and the circumstance of the case that the magistrate can make, namely a Protection Order, an Occupation Order or a Tenancy Order (St Lucia Crisis Centre 14 Nov. 2005).

Basically, a Protection Order prohibits an abuser from "entering or remaining in the household residence of a specified person" (Saint Lucia 1995). Occupation and Tenancy Orders involve certain residential rights provided to the victim, such as rental payments and exclusive living arrangements (ibid.). These latter Orders are based mainly on protection requirements and where applicable, the "best interest of a child" (ibid.). For more information about these Orders, please refer to the electronically attached Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act, 1995 (20 Apr. 1995).

A 2003 Commonwealth Secretariat report about gender-based violence in the Caribbean provided the following description of the Family Court in Saint Lucia and partially corroborates information mentioned earlier: The Family Court "has jurisdiction over the whole country and sits in districts other than Castries at certain fixed days every month." In addition, the Family Court provides social services to assist individuals with understanding the court process (Commonwealth Secretariat 2003). Specifically, the process begins when an intake counsellor at the Family Court interviews individuals wishing to make an application (ibid.). In a situation where the applicant is unable to obtain the services of a lawyer, the intake counsellor, "assesses the risk and make a preliminary judgement on how quickly the matter needs to be heard" (ibid.). In addition, the Family Court employs two social workers who investigate domestic violence situations and "prepare reports on matters such as maintenance and custody" (ibid.). These social workers are also able to provide counselling when specified by the court (ibid.).

However, according to the St Lucia Crisis Center President, it is up to the victim to file a complaint, to seek protection and to obtain legal redress (14 Nov. 2005). The President also claimed that a major challenge for the Family Court is that victims sometimes withdraw their cases before completion (St Lucia Crisis Center 14 Nov. 2005). In addition, the President noted that there "are problems with immediate execution of arrest warrants but this is a problem that plagues the whole criminal system not only the Family Court" (ibid.).

On the subject of abusers who are police officers or government officials, the President noted that protection "is afforded to victims no matter who the abuser is or what post he holds" (ibid.).

Statistical information regarding Family Court protection measures could not be obtained within the time constraints of this Response.

Women's Support Centre

The Women's Support Centre "operates a 24 hour service for victims of domestic violence and is available to pick up victims at any given time" (ibid.). To contact the Centre, victims can call its toll free telephone number (ibid.). Moreover, staff at the Centre can assist victims with applications for Protection Orders to the Family Court (ibid.).

Legal Aid

With regard to legal aid, a social worker at the St Lucia Crisis Center provided the following information in a 17 November 2005 telephone interview. There is a very limited government-funded legal assistance program that operates for a few hours every Tuesday evening. Persons usually have to be referred to this "ad-hoc" or informal legal clinic by other organizations. Presently, this informal legal clinic is based in the Anglican Church in Castries. The clinic is looking for an Executive Director and is seeking to become a full-fledged legal clinic in the near future.

The only cases where a lawyer could be provided by the state would be if the case involved a capital offence (i.e., murder). Country Reports 2004 corroborated this information noting that legal counsel could be provided in capital offence cases to "those who could not afford a defense attorney" (28 Feb. 2005, Sec 1.e.).

However, in a November 2004 news story, The Star reported that legal aid was still unavailable for those unable to pay for a lawyer (19 Nov. 2004). While efforts had been made to establish a legal aid project with funding and assistance from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), after a key organizer departed for a new job, the project reportedly "fell apart" and the funding was reclaimed by CIDA (The Star 19 Nov. 2004). Nevertheless, attorney Mary Francis stated that some lawyers do provide informal legal aid by offering their services free of charge or at a discount (ibid.).

Police effectiveness

Both the President and social worker at the St Lucia Crisis Center noted that police response is sometimes ineffective, especially in emergency situations, because of factors such as a lack of transportation for police personnel (14 Nov. 2005; 18 Nov. 2005). The social worker also mentioned that victims who give an abuser a "second chance" impede protection efforts (St. Lucia Crisis Center 18 Nov. 2005). Country Reports 2004 stated that "police were hesitant to intervene in domestic disputes, and many victims were reluctant to report cases of domestic violence and rape or to press charges" (28 Feb. 2005, Sec 5).

Nevertheless, as mentioned earlier, the Royal St Lucia Police Force does have a Domestic Violence Unit that specializes in addressing these types of offences (St Lucia Crisis Center 14 Nov. 2005; see also IOM June 2005).

Police and medical reports

On the topic of the availability of police reports, the President noted that complaint reports filed by victims with the police could be obtained from law enforcement officials for the Court process (ibid. 14 Nov. 2005). Specifically, the police provide the complainant with a serial number that can be used to track a reported incident (ibid.).

With regard to medical certificates, the President also stated that she was aware of medical practitioners reporting domestic violence to the authorities and providing certificates to victims for court purposes (ibid.).

Gender-based violence

Annual crime statistics compiled by the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force for 2002, 2003 and 2004 provide the following information about gender-based violence in Saint Lucia. The first table refers to rape cases reported, investigated, finalized, number of arrests, and cases addressed by the court (St Lucia 2002; ibid. 2003; ibid. 2004).

Crime / Year200220032004
Total crimes13,49713,27313,252
Rape crimes
reported
384856
Rape crimes
investigated
181319
Rape cases
'cleared-up' or
finalized
48.7 %27.1 %36.5 %
Number of arrests181319
Addressed by the
court
211

The second table refers to cases of "indecent assault" reported, investigated, finalized, number of arrests, and cases addressed by the court (St Lucia 2002; ibid. 2003; ibid. 2004).

Crime / Year200220032004
Total crimes13,49713,27313,252
'Indecent assault'
crimes reported
648467
'Indecent assault'
crimes investigated
323236
Indecent assault
cases 'cleared-up'
or finalized
50.8 %39.5 %56.3 %
Number of arrests363028
Addressed by the court8010

Amendments to criminal code

In December 2004, the government announced that an amended Criminal Code would take effect on 1 January 2005 (St Lucia 16 Dec. 2004). Comprising 1,264 sections laid out in 868 pages, the new Code contains a number of new provisions that address violence against women, including the introduction of "marital rape" as an offence, as well as provisions that address stalking and workplace sexual harassment (ibid.). Moreover, the revised Code "outlaws 'out of court' settlements aimed at compensating victims in cases of rape or sexual abuse" (ibid.). Under the amended Code convicted rapists may face life imprisonment and "unlawful sexual connection can attract a penalty of fourteen years in prison" (ibid.).

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.

References

Commonwealth Secretariat. 2003. Integrated Approaches to Eliminating Gender-based Violence. [Accessed 6 Dec. 2005]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. "St Lucia." United States Department of State. [Accessed 3 Nov. 2005]

Freedom House. 11 August 2005. "St. Lucia." Freedom in the World 2005. [Accessed 3 Nov. 2005]

International Organization for Migration (IOM). June 2005. Legal Review on Trafficking in Persons in the Caribbean: The Bahamas, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, the Netherlands Antilles, St. Lucia, and Suriname. [Accessed 1 Nov. 2005]

Saint Lucia. 16 December 2004. Press Release. "New Criminal Code Comes into Force on New Year's Day." [Accessed 9 Nov. 2005]
_____. 2004. The Central Statistical Office of Saint Lucia. "Crime Statistics – January to December, 2004." [Accessed 3 Nov. 2005]
_____. 2003. The Central Statistical Office of Saint Lucia. "Crime Statistics – January to December, 2003." < http://www.stats.gov.lc/jus163_files/sheet002.htm > [Accessed 3 Nov. 2005]
_____. 2002. The Central Statistical Office of Saint Lucia. "Crime Statistics – January to December, 2002." < http://www.stats.gov.lc/jus163_files/sheet003.htm> [Accessed 3 Nov. 2005]
_____. 20 April 1995. Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act, 1995 (Act No. 7 of 1995), 20 April 1995. Excerpts published in Harvard University's "Annual Review of Population Law" database. [Accessed 31 Oct. 2005]

Saint Lucia Crisis Centre. 18 November 2005. Correspondence received from Social Worker.
_____. 17 November 2005. Telephone interview with Social Worker.
_____. 14 November 2005. Correspondence received from President.

The Star [Castries]. 19 November 2004. Cherry Ann Gaillard. "Funders Reclaim Money Geared For Legal Aid Project." [Accessed 14 Nov. 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted

The Ministry of Home Affairs and Gender Relations could not respond within time constraints.

The St Lucia Bar Association could not respond within time constraints.

The Women's Support Centre could not provide the information requested.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International, European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Factiva, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, The Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women's Rights (CLADEM), Organization of American States' Inter-American Commission of Women, Royal St Lucia Police Force, United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), World News Connection (WNC).

Attachment

Saint Lucia. 20 April 1995. Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act, 1995 (Act No. 7 of 1995), 20 April 1995. Excerpts published in Harvard University's "Annual Review of Population Law" database. [Accessed 31 Oct. 2005]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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