Last Updated: Friday, 31 October 2014, 13:33 GMT

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Domestic violence; the role of the Family Court; procedure for applying for a protection or occupation order; police authority and attitude regarding domestic violence; shelters for abused women

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 31 October 2006
Citation / Document Symbol VCT101993.FE
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines: Domestic violence; the role of the Family Court; procedure for applying for a protection or occupation order; police authority and attitude regarding domestic violence; shelters for abused women, 31 October 2006, VCT101993.FE, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f147c134.html [accessed 1 November 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.

Background

Domestic violence continues to be a serious problem in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (Freedom House 7 Sept. 2006; see also US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). An immigration officer at the Canadian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago provided the following general information on domestic violence in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in correspondence dated 9 July 2006. The Officer indicated that, according to various local sources, the laws that are supposed to protect victims of domestic violence are not always enforced. The Officer added that the same sources also noted that the people responsible do not have the necessary skills to handle cases of domestic violence. Moreover, there are limited resources for victims, and victims are often reluctant to file a complaint (see also US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5).

Role of the Family Court

The Family Court was created in 1995 to ensure the protection of women and children (Canada 9 July 2006; see also St. Vincent and the Grenadines n.d.a). The Family Court is the primary channel for legal recourse for women victims of domestic violence (Canada 9 July 2006; see also St. Vincent and the Grenadines n.d.b). The Court holds hearings and renders decisions, particularly with regard to protection or occupation orders which require offenders to leave the family home (Canada 9 July 2006; St. Vincent and the Grenadines n.d.c). It also decides on maintenance orders (Canada 9 July 2006). The court offers consultation and mediation services on request or when ordered to do so by the court (ibid.; St. Vincent and the Grenadines n.d.b). According to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices 2005, 443 cases of domestic violence were filed in the Family Court in 2005 (US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5).

The Immigration Officer at the Canadian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago provided the following information in correspondence dated 9 July 2006. The Family Court helps victims relocate to a safe shelter and can provide financial aid to those in need. However, the Court has a limited ability to enforce its decisions. Mediation and consultation sessions are regularly cancelled after only a few meetings. Offenders often ignore protection orders, apparently with very few consequences. This information could not be corroborated by the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Procedure for applying for a protection or occupation order

The Web site for the Family Court of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines provided the following information on the procedure for applying for a protection or occupation order (St. Vincent and the Grenadines n.d.c). Any victim of domestic violence can apply for a protection or occupation order. Any member of the victim's family, whether part of his or her household or not, can also apply for a protection or occupation order on behalf of the victim. The applicant is first "interviewed by the Legal Clerk of the Court, i.e. to obtain details of the type of violence, date of incident, place of work or address where Respondent can be reached, etc." The applicant is then "given the option to have the matter settled through counselling or through mediation." If the applicant is not interested in either of those services, "he/she is free to proceed with application for the Order." Applicants must show identification and sign the application in order for it to be processed. Once an application has been made, the court gives the applicant a date for the hearing, and the applicant is expected to appear on that date; the "[s]ummons is given to the Bailiff of the Court to be served on the Respondent [who is required to] appear in Court on the specified date on the summons." If the respondent appears in court but the applicant does not, "the matter can be struck out on the grounds of non-appearance by Plaintiff" because "non-appearance can be taken to mean that the Plaintiff no longer has any interest in the case." In the absence of the respondent, the court can issue a protection or occupation order which is valid for 7 days. No additional information on the procedure for applying for a protection or occupation order, or on specific examples of applications for protection or occupation orders in domestic violence cases that were presented to or processed by the Family Court, could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Policy authority and attitude toward domestic violence

According to the information posted on the Web site for the Family Court of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, when an "abuser" breaches a protection or occupation order issued by the Family Court, "the Applicant should report the matter to the nearest police station" so that the "abuser" can be arrested (St. Vincent and the Grenadines n.d.c). Under Subsection 5(2) of the 1995 Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act, "when a protection order is in force, a police officer may arrest without a warrant a person whom he has reasonable cause to suspect of having committed a breach of the order" (ibid. 17 Oct. 1995). The "abuser can be arrested and charged; brought before the Court; fined and/or imprisoned" (ibid. n.d.c). Subsection 5(5) of the 1995 Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act states that "a police officer may ... exercise the power of arrest ... for the protection of any member of a household where he knows or has good cause to believe that a person is the object of domestic violence and is likely to be further abused" (ibid. 17 Oct. 1995). No information on the enforcement of those provisions in the 1995 Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

The Immigration Officer at the Canadian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago provided the following information in his correspondence dated 9 July 2006. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has 23 police stations. Police officers do not treat cases of domestic violence differently from other complaints. Consequently, it is very difficult to establish the statistics regarding the number of domestic violence cases reported to the different police stations, because they are not distinguished from all other complaints (for example, assault and harassment). Police officers generally take action in domestic violence cases only when the situation seems out of control. Moreover, when the police do not consider the situation to be very serious, they encourage parties to negotiate an agreement rather than proceed with charges. This approach may reflect police experience where the victim often decides to withdraw the complaint. The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is currently drafting a new convention on violence against women, part of which "specifically addresses the need for police services to address all complaints of domestic violence seriously in order to prevent escalation to more serious abuse. "

In 2004, sources report that the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) provided training on domestic violence to a few police officers and social workers (Canada 9 July 2006; see also US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). The training "emphasize[d] the need to file reports and, if there was sufficient evidence, to initiate court proceedings" (ibid.).

Shelters for abused women

The Immigration Officer at the Canadian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago also provided the following information in correspondence dated 9 July 2006. The Officer stated that there were currently no shelters for abused women in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines at that time. However, one shelter is scheduled to open in early 2007, and it is expected to have a crisis centre that will offer services to victims of abuse.

The Immigration Officer at the Canadian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago also noted the existence of Marion House, a non-governmental organization which was founded in 1989 (Canada 9 July 2006). Mario House is primarily known for the counselling services it provides to youths struggling with drug addictions (EU n.d.). The Immigration Officer at the Canadian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago indicated that Marion House is now also offering counselling services to women victims of domestic abuse (Canada 9 July 2006; see also US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). The Officer noted that Marion House has only five qualified counsellors to meet the demand and that the centre's employees keep a record of the people who have sought help there (Canada 9 July 2006).

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

Canada. 9 July 2006. Canadian High Commission in Trinidad and Tobago. Correspondence from an immigration officer.

European Union (EU). N.d. European Commission, Delegation of the European Commission in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. "Delegation of the European Commission in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean." [Accessed 18 Oct. 2006]

Freedom House. 7 September 2006. "Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." Freedom in the World 2006. [Accessed 16 Oct. 2006]

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. 17 October 1995. Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act, 1995. [Accessed 18 Oct. 2006]
_____. N.d.a. Judiciary – Family Court. "Introduction." [Accessed 19 Oct. 2006]
_____. N.d.b. Judiciary – Family Court. "Role of the Family Court." [Accessed 12 Oct. 2006]
_____. N.d.c. Judiciary – Family Court. "Protection/Occupation orders of the court." [Accessed 12 Oct. 2006]

United States (US). 8 March 2006. Department of State. "Saint Vincent and the Grenadines." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005. [Accessed 12 Oct. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), Caribbean Net News, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Human Rights Watch (HRW), United Nations (UN), Organization of American States (OEA).

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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