by Shawn Cumberbatch
Victims of domestic violence in Barbados are about to be offered more protection under the law. And perpetrators of these acts will be facing speedier arrest, imprisonment and in some cases heftier fines as part of a series of planned changes to the Family Law Act.
It’s part of nine amendments to the legislation recommended by the Family Law Council, which need Parliament’s approval, and which will give police the power to arrest — without a warrant — people who are in marriages and other unions and breach protection orders.
A Barbados TODAY examination of the 22-page Family Law Amendment Bill, found that under the amended section 91A of the Family Law Act it was now contemplated that “where the court makes an order or grants an injunction for the personal protection of a party to a marriage or union or for the personal protection of a child of the marriage or union, the court, as it thinks proper, may attach a power of arrest to the order or the injunction”.
“No power of arrest shall be attached to an order or an injunction for personal protection unless the persons against whom the order is made is given notice that such a power shall be attached to the order or injunction,” the amendment stated.
“Where a power of arrest is attached to an order or an injunction, a member of the Police Force may arrest, without a warrant, a person who has reasonable cause for suspecting of being in breach of the order or injunction for personal protection.
“Where a member of the police force arrests a person … the person shall be brought before the court within the period of 24 hours beginning at the time of his arrest, or, as soon as is reasonably practicable thereafter, and dealt with in accordance
with the law; not be released within that period except on the direction of the court,” it added. In addition, under proposed amendments anyone “who knowingly and without reasonable cause contravenes or fails to comply with an injunction” or protection order will now be liable on conviction on indictment to a $20,000 or to imprisonment for five years or to both, or on summary conviction to a fine of $10, 000 or to imprisonment for 12 months or to both.
Under the Family Law Council’s recommended changes provision will also be made to, among other things, widen the scope of the law in respect of the alteration of property interests on divorce or separation, enable the courts, when determining maintenance issues, to take into account relevant internationally accepted principles and relent findings of published research, authorise the courts to order the transfer or settlement of property for the maintenance of a child, empower the courts to delay the grant of a divorce until property matters have been settled, and ensure that marriage counsellors assigned by the courts to give counseling under section 12 or section 14 have been officially approved. shawncumberbatch@barbadostoday. bb