The police will be given sweeping powers under amended domestic violence legislation to act in order to prevent or stop domestic abuse.
Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett today introduced the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which outlines how law enforcement officers should respond to cases of gender-based violence and the circumstances under which they must act.
Under the amended statute, a junior police officer may issue an emergency protection order if he or she has reason to believe that such an order is necessary to ensure the safety of a person at risk. Low-ranking officers may also issue emergency protection orders without the consent of the persons at risk.
Among the other powers handed to the Royal Barbados Police Force is the authority to enter any premises without a warrant if an officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that an emergency protection order, an interim protection order or a final protection order is being breached. Officers will also be given the power to enter premises –– upon the invitation of a person resident there or independently –– if there is reasonable grounds to suspect that a person on the premises has suffered, or is in imminent danger of suffering, physical injury at the hands of some other person.
Blackett told parliamentarians that under the amended Act, the Force shall respond to every complaint alleging domestic violence and the Commissioner of Police must keep a Domestic Violence Register to record information obtained by members of the Force who respond to complaints alleging domestic violence.
The Act mandates officers who respond to complaints alleging domestic violence to complete a report in accordance with a specified form and record the information in the register, and to provide the person making the report with a copy as soon as practicable.
“Where practicable, a member of the Police Force responding to a victim of domestic violence shall render assistance by seeking medical attention for the victim who suffered injury; accompany the victim onto premises for the purpose of retrieving personal property; assistance must also be rendered ensuring the welfare and safety of children and other persons on the premises and the officer must ensure there are no further breaches of the law,” the minister continued.
“The Act further states that a member of the Police Force shall as soon as is practicable after receiving a complaint alleging domestic violence, verbally inform the victim of domestic violence of his or her rights and provide a printed copy of those rights as set out in the prescribed form of the Schedule to the Act.”
In an attempt to eliminate any further acts of violence at the home, the legislation empowers law enforcement officers –– pursuant to an order of the Court –– to seize any ammunition, firearms or other weapons in the possession or control of perpetrators, whether or not those weapons were used to commit acts of domestic violence.
When Blackett announced in November 2015 that he planned to take the amendments to Parliament to ensure conformity with internal best practice, women’s rights advocate Marilyn Rice-Bowen promised that a team of women activists would attend the sitting.
Today, the promise was kept as the former president of the National Organization of Women and fellow activists took their seats in a packed public gallery for the presentation.
However, Rice-Bowen later declined comment, telling Barbados TODAY she would await its passage in both houses of Parliament before offering remarks.
President of the Men’s Educational Support Association Grantley Osbourne offered similar reasons for declining comment.