Domestic violence bill protects stalking victims

A bill that would provide
protection for stalking victims in the Cayman Islands and create various
protections for all victims of domestic violence – including children and dependents
– has been proposed.

The legislation, known as the
Protection from Domestic Violence Bill, 2010 is slated to replace the country’s
legislation on domestic violence, known as the Summary Jurisdiction (Domestic Violence)
Law (1998 Revision)

The bill defines an act of domestic
violence as actions that cause or intend to cause emotional or psychological
abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse or sexual abuse.

Emotional or psychological abuse
can include “intimidation by using abusive or threatening language in a manner
calculated to cause annoyance to instil fear in or result in ill-treatment” of
the intended victim.

The proposal also makes it a crime
to “follow the…person to or waylaying him at any place” or “watching or
besetting of the place where the…person resides, works or conducts business”.

Intimidation can also include
damaging or interfering with property, forced confinement, persistent calls,
text messages or emails or making “unwelcome contact”.

The anti-stalking sections included
in the new bill have been urged by local advocates against domestic abuse for
years.

The findings of a 2006 survey
conducted on behalf of the Young Business and Professional Women’s Club
–presented to government in 2009 – showed an overwhelming majority of respondents
wanted to see anti–stalking and anti–sexual harassment laws enacted.

The survey was carried out in
September 2006 after the club formed a task force to investigate ways to change
laws in Cayman, which it felt were inadequate to protect people from stalking
and harassment.

Other types of abuse defined in the
domestic violence bill included physical and sexual abuse, as well as financial
abuse – meaning behaviour intended to exercise “coercive control over, exploit or
limit” someone’s access to financial resources in order to ensure financial
dependence on the abuser.

“Any act of abuse identified…shall
be regarded as an act of domestic violence even though some or all of those
acts, when viewed in isolation, may appear minor,” a copy of the bill reads.

The bill defines various types of
domestic abuse to allow for the application of protective orders against
abusers on behalf of domestic violence victims. Applications can be made for
three types of orders under the bill: protective orders, occupation orders or
tenancy orders.

If the victim is a child or a
dependent of the suspected abuser, a police officer, a person with whom the
child resides, a parent or guardian, or a representative of Children and Family
Services can make an application for a protective order on their behalf.

Protection orders made under the
new bill can prohibit the suspected abuser, called the ‘respondent’ in the
case, from making further threats, being at a particular premises like school,
work or home of the victims, communicating with the victims, or mishandling the
victim’s property.

The court, if it finds enough
evidence to make a protective order, can force the ‘respondent’ – suspected
abuser – to return property, reimburse the victim for monetary loss, pay
interim relief, relinquish a firearms licence, make rent payments on behalf of
the victims, or participate in a court-ordered treatment programme.

Any compensation ordered by the
court cannot exceed $15,000 and must be received by the court on the victims’
behalf. The protection order cannot extend beyond three years.

Occupation orders or tenancy orders
under the bill deal with the removal of the ‘respondent’ from a home or
apartment where they currently resident and can force those individuals to
continue to make all or part payments on those premises on behalf of their
victim or victims. Before issuing any such orders, the court has to make a
determination of fact in the specific case as to whether such a protective
order is warranted to protect the abuse victim from further injury or loss. The
court can proceed with what are known as “ex-parte” hearings – where only the
victim of the suspected abuse is present. However, any relief provided in those
will be limited to a certain number of days until a full hearing involving all
parties in a domestic dispute case can take place.

Anyone ignoring court protective
orders in domestic violence cases can be sentenced to two years in prison and
fined up to $10,000 upon conviction.

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