An Opposition Senator is warning that Government risks opening itself to lawsuits by giving the police sweeping powers under the amended domestic violence legislation.
Senator Wilfred Abrahams said today the Domestic Violence Bill 2016 was a welcomed piece of legislation.
However, he said he was particularly concerned about the section which authorized subordinate officers to issue protection orders without the victim’s consent.
Abrahams, a lawyer, said it gave the junior officers more power than a magistrate.
“A subordinate police officer has the power to issue an emergency protection order without the consent of the victim. We are threading on exceedingly dangerous grounds in granting that power to the police. We must be aware of making knee-jerk reactions to certain things.
“Yes, I understand that people are afraid; yes, I understand we want to protect the individuals; and yes, I understand people say the police don’t act. But we also have to do what’s in the law,” Abrahams said.
“We are lawmakers. In granting police the power to grant an emergency protection order, we are effectively giving a sergeant in the police force more power than a sitting magistrate has under the same legislation. I do not think it was properly thought through and I think it is something that we need to revisit.”
Abrahams proposed other changes, including the language that suggests that abusers were male and the victims were female.
He contended that there had been instances where men were abused by women, “but because of how we as a society perceive it, we undermine whatever confidence that person still has to go before the courts” because they were afraid of being ridiculed.
“One of the things we need to look at is violence against the individual. Let us wipe our minds now clear from it being one gender against another gender,” he said during debate on the Bill.
Abrahams also took issue with the amendment which made specific reference to husbands, stressing that the Sexual Offences Act contemplated that a woman or a wife could rape her husband.
“Now I agree with the concept behind this piece of legislation. Prior to this, a wife was considered her husband’s property . . . so the objective of this legislation was to say that nobody is anyone’s chapel anymore, so you cannot force yourself on somebody if they do not want to have sex.
“I applaud the fact that our mind has gotten us to this point where we recognize the rights of the individual to say no. I however believe that we are about to commit a travesty by running afoul of the sexual offences legislation by making this husband specific . . . because under our laws a wife can rape her husband,” he insisted.