Call made for Family Court in Dominica

family courtExecutive Director of Lifeline Ministries, Tina Alexander, has said called for a Family Court in Dominica where matters involving children are dealt with within six months.

Her call came against the background of statistics which show 128 reported cases of child sexual abuse in Dominica in 2015.

She told Dominica News Online that the cases being reported are encouraging because it shows children are beginning to speak out but lamented there are very few prosecutions.

“Certainly there have not been 128 successful prosecutions,” she said. “The issue is about, even though the children are being brave enough to report, a number of things that is preventing those reports becoming successful prosecutions.”

According to her, a Family Court is needed where such cases are dealt with quickly, at least within six months, instead of having to wait, as much as years.

“A Family Court that has specialists who are able to provide the children with an environment where it’s easy for them to give evidence and where they feel safe,” Alexander explained.

Alexander is calling for a Family Court on the island
Alexander is calling for a Family Court on the island

She said in the present court system, children are faced with the perpetrators and they don’t feel safe.

“They are also subjected to something called ‘preliminary inquiry,’ where the defence lawyers make them feel like criminals and so they get very discouraged and frightened,” she noted.

Alexander argued that the preliminary inquiry could be conducted on paper.

“The law already allows for it to be done on paper and they are not currently doing that very often and they should be doing it much more often,” she argued.

She also spoke about ‘hush money,’ which is preventing successful prosecution in matters involving children, pointing out that some victim’s families are still being offered money by perpetrators whilst they are on bail.

“We are talking about how that can be actually made illegal so the victims’ families could realize that they can’t sell their child,” she stated.

Alexander noted that the enforcement of a Bail Act is posing another problem

“Because the Bail Act is not yet enforced, people who are accused of sexual assault, they were given bail very easily and we would like to see them hardly given bail at all,” Alexander remarked. “They should be given bail as an exception and not as a rule. At the moment, most sexual offenders are out in a couple of days. We want to argue that rapists should be in the same category as murderers.”

Alexander indicated that Lifeline Ministries and the Dominica National Council of Women (DNCW) are currently hosting awareness meetings across the island in recognizing, reporting and recovering from child sexual abuse.

At least seven meetings have been held thus far with the final held at the Marigot Credit Union Building on Thursday night.

The initiative is being funded by the Canadian High Commission.

“We have been training people to run a helpline where people will be able to get help to report sexual assault and sexual abuse, and that will open on March, 8th, which is International Women’s Day,” she said.

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  1. February 20, 2016

    Tina Alexander, Director of lifeline Ministries, has done an excellent job of setting forth the case for a Family Court in Dominica.

    She has presented the need, and shown us the advantages of a special court to deal with children’s issues within a six month period with specialists to lend support to the victims by avoiding intimidation.

    This would be a huge step forward.

    A short time ago I wrote a comment for DNO where I said a special court for children and families was not necessary. I argued that that there was one justice system for all, etc. I am sorry. I was wrong :oops: because I did not understand the issue.

    Ms. Alexander, you have made your case. I hope Lifeline Ministries and your workers will have great success in this battle, against one of the greatest evils
    of the 21 century.

    Sincerely, Rev. Donald Hill. Evangelist.

    • February 23, 2016

      Rev Hill, it takes a big person to publically change their mind. The Family Court idea has been on the table for years and the Magistrates themselves have been advocating for it. I think we need to use this sudden rise in political interest in Juvenile Justice to say “now is the time to identify one of the courts we have as a family court.” We need to see the cameras, currently under plastic bags in the court, put into use, so that abused children can give evidence remotely and not be stared at by the men who raped or assaulted them. This costs NO MONEY. Let us call on those responsible to ACT.

  2. Tony
    February 20, 2016

    Hello and good afternoon my people. Well am very surprise that my sweet Dominica don’t have a Family Court to address and separate Children who commit crimes from adults. In cases like Murder, Rape,Kidnapping ,shootings and serious assault then bail should be high where most of the defendants can’t afford to post bail therefore they will remain in custody.

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