Stiffer laws to combat domestic violence

People engaging in acts of domestic violence should be tried by a judge and jury and be liable to stiffer penalties.

This call came from Michael Lashley, Member of Parliament (MP) for St Philip North, today as he spoke about amendments to the Domestic Violence Act during the 2014-2015 Estimates Of Revenue And Expenditure in Parliament, on the heels of recent alleged acts of domestic violence, including some that allegedly led to murder.

“I believe that a signal should be sent to those persons who are about to or are engaging in acts of domestic violence . . . . The penalties under the Act should be revisited and offence under the Act should be treated to an indictable offence,” he said.

The MP noted that the Governance Committee was looking to strengthen the Act, which has limitations such as a person in a visiting relationship and suffering under the hand of an abuser could not get immediate relief if they applied under the Act.

“The person must be a member of the household, living in the household or a spouse of the household.

“A person who is in a visiting relationship cannot be captured under the Domestic Violence Act and that is where we are going as this Government to amend the Domestic Violence Act to broaden persons who can apply,” he explained.

He added: “When we listen or read, we hear about the constant abuse, we hear about persons going around this particular person’s house, threatening them or stalking, as I would call it, and the mere fact that it is a visiting relationship, the person cannot making an application under the Domestic Violence Act to have immediate relief in the Magistrate’s courts.”

The Minister of Transport and Works also said he believed that counselling was the first step to solving and healing domestic matters which often created a serious division in families.

He reminded that when the Act resulted in death, in some instances, the deceased was the sole breadwinner of the family now left to be dependent on the State.

“That is why we have to threat it in a very serious matter and our side would speak and continue to speak forcefully to the public in relation to matters of domestic violence particularly the legislative regime of domestic violence,” Lashley said.

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