The Cayman Islands Crisis Centre has backed calls for a specialist court to fast-track domestic violence cases.
A report from a U.K. lawyer on Cayman’s criminal justice system also recommended the admission of hearsay evidence to help cases proceed when victims are unwilling to testify.
The recommendations, from adviser Claire Wetton, also called for separate waiting areas for victims and defendants when cases go to court.
The board of the Cayman Crisis Centre endorsed those viewpoints this week, suggesting they would help cases from falling through when victims retracted their statements.
“In this report, Ms. Wetton correctly identifies gaps in the current system that severely impact victims of domestic violence and their rights to justice,” said Denise Gower, chairwoman of the Crisis Centre board.
“We support the suggestion for the legislative and operational changes Ms. Wetton has suggested in order to ensure that domestic violence victims are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.”
Ms. Gower said research shows that women and men stayed in abusive relationships for a variety of reasons, including fear, embarrassment, low self-esteem and even love.
“These are strong motivators for anyone, but when they are compounded by hearing dates that are many months ahead, it robs the victim of a sense of hope for the future: the sense that the judicial system cares about her and her children.”
Ms. Wetton’s report suggested multiple adjournments in domestic violence cases often lead to the collapse of prosecution.
“A dedicated domestic violence court where cases can be fast-tracked, with the cases being listed within 24 hours of the complaint would reduce the number of retractions and delay in the process,” the report noted.
Ms. Gower said the report’s recommendation that victims and defendants be kept in separate waiting areas at court is also important.
“When you think that people who live in abusive relationships are coerced and bullied constantly, it is reasonable to understand that the brave woman who goes to the courthouse on the scheduled day determined to give her testimony might be convinced otherwise when faced with her abuser and his supporters in the waiting room.”
The Crisis Centre has a 24-hour confidential emergency hotline at 943-2422.