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Govt to strengthen laws tackling domestic abuse and violence

Eyleen Gomez

The Ministry of Equality has outlined a number of legislative changes and initiatives to help tackle domestic abuse and violence.

Today’s announcement coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Among the proposals is a Bill for a self-contained Act that will deal with all protections for domestic abuse in a single piece of legislation.

According to the Government the aim of this reform is to increase the tools available to both law enforcement and victims of abuse, and will give better outcomes when dealing with domestic abuse.

The Bill will also provide for a new offence criminalising the type of coercive and controlling behaviour that can constitute domestic abuse.

This will allow victims who experience coercive and controlling behaviour that stops short of serious physical violence, but amounts to extreme psychological and emotional abuse, to bring their perpetrators to justice.

Such an offence will close a gap in the law around patterns of controlling or coercive behaviour that may occur in family relationships.

The Bill will also provide for domestic violence protection notices and orders enabling the Royal Gibraltar Police and the courts to put in place protection in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident.

This includes banning the alleged perpetrator from returning to a particular residence and from having contact with the victim for a set period of time.

Additionally, the Government explained that in order to give maximum effect to the changes in the law there will be substantial training offered to ensure that everyone properly understands their responsibilities.

“A wide-ranging programme is currently being commissioned so that relevant training is provided at every level.”

The Minister for Equality Samantha Sacramento is also in the process of reviewing the scope of Gibraltar’s Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements.

This is with a view to increase its responsibilities from dealing with the assessment and management of the risk posed by registered sex offenders and persons of interest in the community to include the assessment and management of violent offenders, including perpetrators of domestic abuse and violence.

The Ministry for Equality’s domestic abuse video campaign will be played on GBC during the months of November and December in order to raise awareness. It will also be posted on social media platforms and the public are encourage to share this in order to continue to raise awareness.

Ms Sacramento said: “Breaking the cycle of domestic abuse is a priority of this Government. I am therefore pleased to report, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, that there has also been progress in preparing legislation to ensure that our law enforcement agencies and victims have the appropriate tools available to them to combat domestic abuse and thereby reduce the devastating impact such abuse has on victims and on society.”

“I have always been very committed to the domestic abuse strategic plan and my recent appointment as Minister for Justice has provided a new impetus. I have an ambitious programme in mind and I look forward to making greater advancements. I am also currently working closely with all relevant departments in the commissioning of bespoke training to optimise all the services that we provide.”

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

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

The strategy, which applies to all key stakeholder departments, aims to build professional capacity in the manner in which each will deal with domestic abuse, and provides for a connective framework between departments, developed through a working group that is chaired by the Minister for Equality.

According to the Government, the implementation of this strategy has been an important milestone in the development of how professionals deal with situations of domestic abuse and it is a live policy that is kept under continuous review.

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