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Govt promises progress soon to update laws on domestic abuse

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

Draft legislation which will update the laws on domestic abuse will be discussed at the next session of Parliament, the Gibraltar Government announced as it marked the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

In a statement to the press, the Government said work is continuing to update the law for offences, notices and orders to ensure that Gibraltar’s legislation covers all forms of domestic abuse and that tools are available to the Royal Gibraltar Police and other stakeholders when responding to such cases.

Although a Command Paper was published last year, there has been a “considerable amount of consultation until very recently which has resulted in changes,” the Government said in a statement.

It will soon be discussed in Parliament.

Meanwhile the Minister for Equality, Samantha Sacramento, and relevant Government departments, continue to work on the implementation of the national strategic plan on domestic abuse, the statement said.

The objective of this strategic plan is to eradicate domestic violence and abuse in Gibraltar in all its forms, as well as the stigma attached to it, and to support and empower persons experiencing abuse and their families, it added.

The national strategic approach also aims to prevent abuse through education at an early age and, importantly, to work with perpetrators to break the cycle.

“Violence against women and girls is one of the most persistent issues affecting this gender and it is a devastating and fundamental violation of women’s human rights,” No.6 Convent Place said.

“This issue cuts across all social statuses and age groups.”

It said that as part of the national strategy, significant strides continue to be made by the Gibraltar Domestic Abuse Committee to eradicate domestic violence and abuse.

This committee is a partnership between the Care Agency, Royal Gibraltar Police, Gibraltar Health Authority and the Ministry for Justice and Equality to facilitate preventing and responding to domestic abuse.

All departments and agencies represented in the Gibraltar Domestic Abuse Committee have established Domestic Abuse policies with clear processes for identifying and referring victims and perpetrators to relevant services.

The committee has also developed a single Multi Agency Referral form, to ensure a speedy referral process, the statement added.

In addition, there has been continued progress in particular stakeholder departments and agencies.

“The Care Agency has established a triaged referral system which will ensure that any referrals in relation to domestic abuse are directed to either the Adult Services (for people who do not have dependent children) or to Children’s Services in cases of domestic abuse where a child is present and/or the victim and perpetrator have children,” the statement said.

“Cases of the latter are also cross checked with referrals sent directly to Children’s Services to ensure that no child is ‘missed’.”

“The delivery of the Freedom Programme is well-established with the Therapeutic Service and recently five Care Agency staff were able to access the training with a view to supporting both Children’s Services and Adult Services.”

“The Freedom Programme is an accredited therapeutic programme that supports and empowers victims to recognise abuse and control and, ultimately, to understand the full impact of domestic violence on them as victims and on any children in the family.”

For its part, the Royal Gibraltar Police has dedicated police officers who have been trained in relation to DASH (Domestic Abuse, Stalking, Harassment and Honour-based violence risk identification, assessment and management model), which aims to support and improve police response to cases of domestic abuse.

Meanwhile the GHA’s own Domestic Abuse Working Group is developing its own holistic internal policy for treating and referring victims of domestic abuse, the Government spokesman said.

“This includes the identification of the signs of domestic abuse that may not be overtly obvious and making referrals to Mental Health Services when appropriate,” the spokesman added.

“Additionally, this working group is responsible for the setting up of focused training of all front line staff and to inform individuals of their roles and responsibilities in relation to helping victims of, or suspected victims of, domestic abuse.”

Training is also being developed for officers in the Probation Service and Her Majesty’s Prison to develop a domestic abuse accredited programme for those remanded and sentenced for domestic abuse related offences.

“Prevention is a key strand of the domestic abuse national strategy and the Ministry for Equality continues to work in collaboration with the Department of Education in this regard,” the statement said.

“Although this year, given Public Health advice, the marking of the day is not as high visibility or high profile as in other years, schools and the Gibraltar College have continued to mark November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, in different and meaningful ways.”

“Under the theme of ‘Respect and Healthy Relationships’ important, age-appropriate and sensitive exploration of the issues has been tackled by all schools and the Gibraltar College through the PSHE (Personal, Social, Health, Economic) programmes.”

“This builds upon the work carried out by schools in recent years and lays the foundation for future work too.”

Ms Sacramento, said, “It is always important, indeed imperative, that we mark November 25”.

“However, our aim is to eradicate domestic abuse and I hope that the day will come when we will no longer have to mark this day.”

“A great deal of work has been carried out by the Domestic Abuse Working Committee and I am really grateful for the meaningful progress made by the stakeholder departments to give effect to the Government’s policy.”

“This will allow us to work more quickly, more efficiently and more seamlessly in future.”

“I would like to thank the Domestic Abuse Committee for all their efforts to date and I have no doubt that they will continue to find ways of improving services for those affected by domestic abuse.”

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