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Opinion & Analysis

Increasing access to justice 'roots up'

By Tamsin Suarez

I am a working mother of eight children and I have been tenaciously fighting for a fairer and more representative Gibraltar for over 20 years. I have chaired various charities and associations politically advocating in areas such as equal rights and social justice. It is this political activism that inspired me to study law as a distance learning student.

I see Gibraltar changing but who is it changing for? We are a community that cares about children yet our maternity policy is unsupportive and when families break up it is traumatic and expensive, which only benefits the legal system and lawyers who represent us.

Children experience bullying, which leaves them vulnerable to mental health issues. Offenders are released into the community without addressing the social issues behind their crimes. Domestic abuse and reports of sexual crime, especially on children, seem to be rising.

It feels like current politicians are promising flights to the moon yet our world is a bottomless pit of issues that have boxed ticked but are not dealt with at the root.

In my portfolios for Equality and Justice I will tackle these issues in a dedicated manner to make our community a safer place, increase access to justice and protect the vulnerable from birth until old age.

I will equalise maternity and paternity leave to 18 weeks for each parent so each has the opportunity to spend time with their new families. This will strengthen family bonds and help spread the workload equally within the family unit.

However, in a large percentage of families that separate, divorce can be adversarial and costly; both financially and emotionally.

To combat this I will introduce easy access family tribunals with support advocates to reduce conflict and the financial burden associated with it which will benefit both parties and ultimately the children. Maintenance payments will be automatic and fair and access to children equal.

The tribunal will deal firmly with conflicting parents who assign blame and ensure that the children have the right to see both parents and get the financial support that they need.

Child safety is at the forefront of my policies. I will ensure investment in the RGP so they have the resources to comprehensively combat sexual crimes on children. I will also ensure that EVERYONE who works with or around children or vulnerable adults is subjected to a CRB check. It is important that our most vulnerable are protected.

Groundwork has been established to protect from domestic abuse. I will legislate to extend this to protect from emotional abuse.

Perpetrators of all crimes will be given a mandatory rehabilitation program to tackle learned behaviour and break the abuse cycle.

The way we make our community safe needs complete overhaul. I will address this comprehensively to ensure that the causes and the effects of crime are dealt with and reoffending rates are decreased. Our safety is paramount and I pledge to ensure access to justice is tackled from the roots up.