The cases were the talk of a nation.
On one hand, a self-proclaimed ‘superstar’, Timothy Rugrat St Pierre, was remanded to HMP Dodds for performing atop a counter at Chefette Restaurants’ Lower Broad Street location.
On the other, Quincy Orlando John assaulted the mother of his child during an argument. He was placed on bond to keep the peace.
And in the court of Bajan social media, the judicial system was found wanting. Magistrate Douglas Frederick has since explained that he was not privy to all of the facts that were outlined in our reporting.
Chiding the police prosecutor in court, he later declared: “You did not say everything that you were given, so I did not know everything that was put in the press.
“Those facts were never revealed to me. You put me in a position where people now have to question how I operate when I never heard or never even knew.
“That has put me in a serious position and that has put this court in a serious position.”
When Frederick spoke about the reactions to these court decisions, especially as they occurred on the same day and were handed down by him, it brought the swift ire of Barbadians on radio call-in programmes, comment sections and blogs across the land.
His rulings also prompted two women’s organisations – the National Organisation of Women and Soroptimists International of Barbados – to respond to the rulings.
In a statement issued to the media, President of NOW Marsha Hinds-Layne called attention to what was deemed as disparate sentencing between ‘Rugrat’ and John
She said: “If one individual jumps up on the counter of a fast-food restaurant and another person abuses the mother of his child, and one gets jail and one doesn’t, then we would have to conclude that fast food counters are more important in Barbados than the lives of women and girls.
“Obviously, that is a very discomforting feeling to recognise as a woman living in Barbados.”
She also noted that the organisation had written Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson and copied the letter to Attorney General Dale Marshall and Magistrate Frederick.
Soroptimist International of Barbados made linkages between the recent case and another that Frederick ruled on in 2018, where he advised the defendant to “read the story of the boy who cried wolf” after deciding to drop a case against a former partner who had reappeared in court to accuse the partner of shooting her.
Soroptomist International said in their statement 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”. It pledged to continue to lend its voice to holding judicial officers accountable for the sentences meted out to those who abuse intimate partners.
While there are other factors that must be taken into consideration for Frederick’s ruling last week, this trial in the court of public opinion also shows the shifting tide of feeling on issues of domestic violence and intimate partner abuse.
There was a time when violence between former or current romantic partners was merely classified as “bedroom business” until it was too late.
Local and regional movements such as Life in Leggings also helped to give voice and an online platform to many women who felt as though their experiences with sexual and intimate partner violence went without recourse.
We hope that the conversation, and growing calls for change, will continue to resonate day by day. For perhaps finally, our society appears willing to adopt values that will protect the lives of women and girls, after so much blood of the innocents has been spilt.
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