JUSTICE Minister Yvonne Dausab yesterday tabled the Combating of Domestic Violence Amendment Bill in parliament, in which she suggested that courts be empowered to grant interim protection orders on an urgent basis even though the respondent, who the victim is attempting to keep away from has not been informed.
In the bill, Dausab said the ex parte application, will allow for victims to apply for a protection order even though respondents have not been given notice of the proceedings and a chance to be heard.
Dausab also recommended in the amendment Bill that protection orders and criminal charges should be pursued simultaneously and places a duty on police officers who open dockets in respect of a domestic violence complaint to advise a complainant of the possibility of applying for a protection order while the criminal charge is pending.
“Our legal framework on combating domestic violence has long been criticized both domestically and internationally for the unfortunate unavailability of magistrates to issue protection orders after hours (5pm to 8am),” Dausab said.
With the amended Act, victims can now apply for a protection order at any given time.
The Bill continues to strengthen the safeguards against the intimidation of complainants by further empowering the courts to postpone inquiries in order to consider whether the steps taken by station commanders are sufficient, and if not, to make an order for any further police action that may be required to protect the complainant or applicant. This is in addition to section 12(15) of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act, 2003 which directs station commanders to enquire the reasons as to why a person who applied for a protection order failed to appear in court and further, to direct station commanders to ensure that the applicant is not being intimidated.
The Bill also empowers the court to admit any previous statements made by a child who is younger than 14 years as provided for in section 216A of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977.
“Although much more needs to be done to put an end to violence against vulnerable persons, such as women, children, and persons with disabilities in Namibia, the tabling of the Combating of Domestic Violence Amendment Bill is an important step in that direction and enables policymakers to take the lead to change the attitudinal and social patterns and to raise increased awareness about the rights of women and children,” Dausab said in her address.
In addition to the Domestic Violence amendment Bill, Dausab also submitted the Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill, in which she proposed that Prosecutors be allowed to enter a plea and sentence agreement for suspects implicated in cases of organized crime operations, including wildlife crime, money laundering, and other crimes of a transnational nature.
“Organized crime syndicates operate across national borders and because kingpins and ring leaders of such syndicates are almost always not present in the countries in which they operate, they make use of local people to carry out their operations, in a similar way to the offence of poaching. Very often, the perpetrators who are caught by law enforcement agencies are not the ones in charge of the syndicates, but they work for those who are in charge. This leads to convictions of the perpetrators but not the kingpins, who continue with their operations unabated as they merely find other runners,” Dausab argued.