Victims of Violence Should Lean on the Law, says Magistrate

The content originally appeared on: ZNS BAHAMAS News
Magistrate Ian-Marie Darville-Miller speaking about the Domestic Violence Protection Order Act

Victims of domestic violence must know that the law and the courts are working for them, to protect them and to punish perpetrators, according to Magistrate Ian-Marie Darville-Miller. 

The Domestic Violence Protection Order Act, she advised, that empowers the courts to make immediate orders to protect vulnerable people in certain situations. 

“Usually, every time something happens that domestic violence-related, and it’s in the news, the first thing you hear is ‘The courts are not doing anything’; ‘The law is not on the side of the victim’; ‘There is no one to protect the victim’ or ‘They just going to court, and they will just drop the matter anyway’,” Magistrate Darville-Miller said.

“Those scenarios may happen, however that does not mean that the law is not there for you.”

Magistrate Darville-Miller made these remarks at the Zonta Club of New Providence Say No to Violence to Women and Girls advocacy event, a Gender-Based Violence Seminar, which took place on Saturday, November 18, 2023 at CV Bethel Senior High School.  

Zonta Club of New Providence holds the Orange the World Campaign annually in The Bahamas. NGOs and other groups like Zonta utilize the Orange the World Campaign every year globally to bring awareness during the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls (November 25 – International Day to end Violence Against Women and Girls to December 10, International Human Rights Day.)

Magistrate Darville-Miller was one of several presenters who spoke to community leaders and residents, thanks to a partnership with the South Beach constituency and MP Bacchus Rolle.

She told clinic attendees that any man or woman in need of the court’s help can make an application in the Supreme Court or in the Magistrate’s Court. 

“It is a very simple application; a lot of people don’t understand how simple it is for people to make this application,” she said. 

“This application can be made by the victim themselves, it can be made by the Commissioner of Police, the Domestic Violence Unit, it can be made by the Department of Social Services, and it also can be made in conjunction with someone who is a part of an NGO. For instance, the Crisis Center or an Attorney can accompany the person to court, if necessary. But the application is so simple and easy that the abused person can make the application on their own accord.”

The steps involved for the complainant include:

* Attend the Magistrates’ or Supreme Court and complete the application form;

*The person is then directed to a single Judge to swear that the contents of the application are true and correct;

*The Judge, based on what is written on the form, will then have a discussion with the victim to obtain supporting evidence to determine: whether or not the abuse exists; whether or not the abuse exists to a point where interim measure needs to be made; or whether or not there is potential abuse or abuse that exists but it is not likely to occur in the near future so that it can take some time to be investigated.

The Domestic Violence Protection Order Act protects spouses, partners, those in common-law relationships, those who live in the same household as a perpetrator and children, children of the perpetrator, children of the family, and children with a relationship to the perpetrator. 

Magistrate Darville-Miller clarified that when talking about partners and common-law relationships, it doesn’t mean that the individuals must be living together. The law also covers boyfriend-girlfriend relationships, and it provides them with the same protection as if it was a spouse relationship, so the abused person would be afforded the same type of assistance.

The interim protection order is very important, she added. The Domestic Violence Protection Order Act is very powerful because it gives courts the ability to make decisions on site immediately. When an interim protection order is granted, it grants up to two weeks for the removal of children, the removal of the perpetrator from the home, the eviction of the perpetrator, maintenance orders, spousal support orders, counseling orders, and orders that the weapon be removed from the home. 

“As justice is blind, these orders can be granted on behalf of both women and men,” she said, “the law represents everyone!”

Upon the expiration of the interim protection order for two weeks, an inter-party hearing is heard in court, where the victim, the applicant and the perpetrator, the respondent, are both in Court to make the case and respond to the case, respectively. The Judge then determines whether the interim protection order should be made final and extended taking into consideration the living conditions, the children, the needs of the family and the needs of the victim.

The Royal Bahamas Police Force Domestic Violence Unit also actively participated in the clinic, led by Sgt McGregor. Also presenting was Zontian and medical physician Dr. Denotrah Archer, who spoke about the health impacts of gender-based violence.

On Sunday, November 26, 2023, Zonta Club of New Providence joined the Department of Gender and Family Affairs and other NGOs for a special thanksgiving service at Bethel Baptist Church on Meeting Street. November 26, 1962, marked the first time women voted in The Bahamas. Attendees commemorated the day by laying a wreath at the graveside of the late Dame Doris Johnson, one of the leaders of the Women’s Suffrage Movement of The Bahamas. 

Source: Felicity Darville

More photo highlights below:

attendees at the Zonta Club of New Providence Gender=based violence clinic during the Orange the World campaignSgt McGregor of the Domestic Violence Unit, Royal Bahamas Police ForceMagistrate Ian-Marie Darville-Miller speaking about the Domestic Violence Protection Order Act during the Orange the World campaign