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MaltaToday 23 November 2022 MIDWEEK

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2 NEWS maltatoday | WEDNESDAY • 23 NOVEMBER 2022 2 CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 The man was tracked down by police to his Qrendi residence, where he was holed up alone and believed to be armed. Within an hour of the murder, the man uploaded two Facebook messages – one addressed to his young children, and another suggesting a domestic dispute. The residence was surround- ed with police from the Special Intervention Unit and a medical team on standby as negotiators tried to convince the man to give himself up. Until the time of printing, the man was still locked up inside his house as police sealed the ap- proach roads to the quiet neigh- bourhood. Inquiry to be held Meanwhile, Cassar's murder has prompted an independ- ent inquiry led by retired judge Geoffrey Valenzia to determine whether the institutions failed the woman. The inquiry was called by Home Affairs Minis- ter Byron Camilleri and Justice Minister Jonathan Attard. Camilleri confirmed that Cas- sar had filed a police report for domestic violence and charges were issued by the police in May. However, the case was appoint- ed for hearing in November 2023. Camilleri also revealed that last August, Cassar had filed a court application and obtained a pro- tection order. "The charges in court were not enough to avoid what happened this morning," Camilleri said yesterday during a press confer- ence that had to deal with some- thing else but, which required the minister to address the femi- cide. Domestic violence victims are having to wait up to a year for their cases to be heard in court due to a "massive backlog" since all domestic violence cases are being presided over by a single magistrate, Lara Lanfranco. Cassar is the third femicide victim this year. The law was changed after the election to recognise femicide as part of the Criminal Code with a bearing on the considerations a court can make when considering a mur- der case. According to statistics tabled in parliament in January, there were 1,151 cases of domestic violence reported to the police between January and the end of August of 2021. At the time, justice minister Edward Zammit Lewis revealed in parliament that between 2017 and 2020 some 989 cases of do- mestic violence were reported. However, only 42 cases result- ed in a guilty verdict, with the majority (around 802 cases) list- ed as having been "exhausted". A case can be exhausted for various reasons, including vic- tims who refuse to testify against their alleged abuser or those who withdraw their initial crim- inal complaint. In 2018, more than 600 mur- ders of women by an intimate partner or family member/rel- ative were recorded in 14 EU member states. The highest rates – calculated per 100,000 women – were recorded in Fin- land, Malta and Latvia. Outraged and saddened In the wake of Cassar's murder, several organisations expressed outrage. Lara Dimitrijevic from the Women's Rights Foundation said that the murder clearly showed that the country has a wider problem of male violence against women. "Even after ratifying the Istan- bul Convention and changing legislation we are not addressing the root cause which is gender inequality," Dimitrijevic said. Taking note of the multiple do- mestic violence reports Cassar had filed with the police, Dimi- trijevic insisted the system con- tinues to fail women like Ber- nice. "No matter how we look at it, we cannot justify it. We must ad- dress attitudes of 'If I can't have you, no one can'; we must tack- le the procedures and gender stereotyping that is prevalent across the board, from our cul- ture to our institutions," Dimi- trijevic said, adding the country was patching things up without working on the root cause. The Malta Women's Lobby said it was "extremely saddened" Shocked and saddened, NGOs and politicians want root causes of domestic violence addressed The police Special Intervention Unit accompany an unidentified man towards the Qrendi house where the murder suspect is holed up (Photo: James Bianchi/MaltaToday)

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