Fractured families in Barbados will soon have a single judicial source to which they can go to help solve their problems or get redress.
It will come in the form of what Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson revealed this morning as an Integrated Domestic Violence Court. While officially launching the island’s first Drug Treatment Court in the Supreme Court Complex on Whitepark Road, Sir Marston said the proposed tribunal would have its own judge to hear issues ranging from domestic violence to child maintenance.
“We speak a lot about domestic violence when some poor women gets killed outside a police station in Oistins and we all fulminate about what we are going to do and that sort of thing,” the Chief Justice observed.
“We need to speak of domestic when a wife walks into a door that she has walked through countless times, but somehow that door suddenly closes when she was walking through it and she says, ‘Well, I just walked into the door’, without telling us, who was the motivating force behind the door closing,” continued the top judicial officer.
“We need,” he proposed, “to have an Integrated Domestic Violence Court so women don’t have to go to magistrates’ courts to get maintenance, to the High Court Civil to get a divorce and to High Court in its criminal division, to testify. We need something integrated, so that there is one judge, one family.
“That is it,” he declared. “We don’t need to have women going from pillar to post. I say women. I know that there are men who are also victims of domestic violence, but the statistical evidence points to women being the main victims.”
Sir Marston lamented that quite often when people talk about domestic violence, they do not seem to acknowledge the loss of time which women experience when injured at the hands of men.
“They have to take time off from work, they go out of their way to redefine and explain domestic violence, so that it’s their fault. And, the fact is, if you have an integrated approach with domestic violence, what ends up happening, is that you don’t have a battered woman who has to go to the magistrates’ court to get maintenance for the children; go to the civil court and High Court to get the divorce and go to the criminal court to pursue criminal justice in a situation where she is the subject of a criminal offence. You have one judge, doing everything,” asserted the Chief Justice.
“That judge,” he continued, “has grown with the family, knows what is happening, knows that the abuser may actually need help. [Because] I’m not talking of the Integrated Domestic Violence Court from the standpoint that abusers need to be jailed. They may need help.”
As the Chief Justice suggested, a problem-solving integrated domestic violence court has that ethos in mind.
Sir Marston announced, too, that he was considering a new juvenile justice system.
“We are still, to some extent, looking at our juveniles when they commit offences, as criminals; we have to look at sending them to the Government Industrial School and so on. Juvenile justice systems and restorative concepts tend to think of intervention; interrupting them so that they don’t get on the path that we know as destructive to them, and ultimately harmful for our society,” he stated.
“What this event this morning . . . what this launch does for me, is it tells me, now that the iron is red, I need to strike,” noted the island’s top judicial officer.