Another women’s advocacy group has rebuked a magistrate’s handling of a domestic violence case.
Soroptomist International of Barbados said last Friday’s ruling by Magistrate Douglas Frederick was “discouraging and déjà vu”, noting that it has previously expressed grave concern with comments the judicial official made in the media almost a year ago.
Magistrate Frederick ordered shopkeeper Quincy Orlando John, 39, to compensate his child’s mother Natasha Lewis after he pleaded guilty to causing her bodily harm during an argument on December 27, when she went to his home to collect their three-year-old daughter.
The court heard that John attempted to gain access to Lewis’ vehicle armed with a cutlass. Lewis, who once lived with John, ended the relationship because he had become abusive, the magistrate was told.
Magistrate Frederick concluded that John was not a fit candidate for prison and placed him on a bond to keep the peace for six months. If he breaches it he will have to pay $1,500 immediately or spend one month in prison. The matter was adjourned until January 10 when the complainant is expected to show up in court.
But in its assessment of the case, Soroptomist International said despite the facts of the case and despite the guilty pleas proffered by the accused, Magistrate Frederick reportedly only saw it fit to impose a non-custodial sentence, having concluded that John was “not a candidate for HMP Dodds, at least not at this time”.
The group questioned: “If not at this time, then at what time?
“If the defendant had succeeded in his attempts (plural) to open the victim’s car door and had done whatever he set out to do, while armed with a cutlass, in front of their three-year-old child, would that have been the time? Must we wait until women are killed before taking action?
“In this case, the complainant alleged that she had ended her relationship with the accused after he became abusive. Yet, equipped with this information indicating a history of abusive behaviour, Magistrate Frederick reportedly chose to simply place the defendant on a bond to keep the peace.”
Soroptomist International argued that the magistrate’s comments sent a clear message that reports of previous and continued abuse by domestic violence victims will not be taken seriously by the justice system and that victims of domestic attacks should rely on car door locks, not the judiciary, for protection from abusers.
It said: “This situation of not adopting a ‘zero-tolerance’ standard in relation to domestic violence is not acceptable.
“Soroptimist International of Barbados will continue to publicly hold our judicial officers accountable for letting domestic abusers and potential murderers off with light sentences.”
The advocacy group also highlighted a previous domestic abuse case involving Magistrate Frederick last year. It charged the magistrate with trivialising the issue of domestic abuse when a young woman appearing before him as a defendant last year said she had dropped a previous case against her former partner when she was then the complainant in 2018.