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Antigua: Domestic abusers and sex offenders to face the law without victims’ consent

20/05/2012

ANTIGUA OBSERVER – Government has started taking steps that will eventually lead to perpetrators of domestic abuse and sexual offenders facing prosecution, even if their victims refuse to press charges.

The move came amidst mounting concern that too many offenders, including police officers, are escaping punishment because of their victims’ fear or reluctance to give evidence.

“We are looking at how to tweak the legislation in terms of prosecuting these cases. Social workers, advocacy groups, relatives and neighbors would be called upon to help take cases forward, rather than leaving it solely up to the victim.

There have been several instances of child victims not wanting to proceed with cases against their abusers because they are either pressured to drop the matter or their families are paid off.

“Particularly when it comes to abuse of the girl child, we have many cases that should have been brought before the courts but are thrown out because the mother decides ‘it’s going to be too hard for me to prosecute this man who is the stepfather of my 14-year-old girl and I’m going to take some money for it.”

“We are going to amend the law in relation to that, in that even if the minor decides that she doesn’t want to go forward with the charges because of some undue pressure or undue influence placed on her, we are still going to go forward with charges.”

There are cases of lawmen involved in criminal activities they are sworn to protect citizens against, like in the case of a particular officer known to repeatedly abuse his wife, but escaping punishment because the woman refuses to go forward with prosecution.

“Basically, mandatory arrest is a policy which is being instituted around the world and what it does is ensure that the police would force an arrest on a perpetrator even if the victim does not want to carry forward the case.”

* The Trafficking in Persons (Prevention) Act, 2010

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