New proposed amendments to the Temporary Protection Order will place the burden of finding safety and shelter from domestic violence on the victim, the Women’s Rights Foundation has said.

WRF says that the amendment effectively means that the law would no longer be protecting victims and therefore deprives them of ‘their fundamental rights.’

They add this is particularly worrying when the victims are ‘often is accompanied by dependent children.’

This is just one of the areas potentially impacted by a bill tabled in the House of Parliament, Bill 84 of 2019.  The bill proposes amendments to the Temporary Protection Order as per Article 540A (1) within Malta’s Criminal Code. These proposed changes come only a year after their introduction, WRF states.

The advocacy has subsequently raised this in their judicial protest filed with the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality.  They explain that the law is different to the emergency barring order outlined in the Istanbul convention.

Police discretion not to bring action against perpetrator

WRF also expresses concern that temporary protection orders only being issued following the investigation of the police officer, ‘or a rank not less than police inspector,’. They say this is also concerning, ‘given that police resources are over stretched as it is.’

Worse still, they are worried by the fact that the police can request the order through court and yet are not compelled to carry out criminal action against the person(s) responsible.

Victim must chase for information

WRF also stresses that while there are obligations on the authorities to provide information on actions taken against the ‘perpetrator,’ there is greater frequency of the victim having to chase the authorities for information.

‘This could lend victims to be at further risk, if they are not duly informed as to whether the temporary protection order is valid or otherwise. Victims could end up in a situation that they come face to face with their perpetrators given that the temporary protection order would no longer be valid, without their knowledge.’

WRF therefore is calling on the authorities to ‘take into serious account that such proposed amendment goes against the rights of victims, especially given that domestic violence is deemed to be a serious violation of their fundamental human rights.’

WRF’s observations and protest in full:

Women’s Rights Foundation makes the following observations: –

  1. The nature of a temporary protection order reflects the aim of an emergency barring orders as found in the Istanbul Convention. As explained in the Explanatory Note to the said Convention, the aim is to provide immediate protection so as to ensure the safety of the victims of domestic violence without putting the burden on the victim who often is accompanied by dependent children.
  2. That the law as is being proposed delineates from the nature of the emergency barring order as foreseen in the Istanbul Convention in the following ways: –
    1. Irrespective of the results of a risk assessment carried out to victims of domestic violence, the proposed amendments require that a police inspector is to carry out an investigation.
    2. This investigation has to be carried out within 12 hours from the moment that the risk assessment is carried out
    3. It is up to the Police inspector to apply to the court for the issuance of the temporary protection order if according to his/her investigation the victim is at serious risk of harm.
    4. The court can at its discretion issue a temporary protection order within 8 hours when it receives the application as filed by Police Inspector
    5. The victim is to be provided with sheltered accommodation during this period
    6. That if a temporary protection order is issued, this is only valid for up to a period of 30 days, however if the police are of the opinion that criminal proceedings are not to be instituted during this period, then the temporary protection order is no longer valid.

Newsbook.com.mt has reached out to the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality for comment in response to the judicial protest.