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MALTATODAY 27 November 2022

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4 maltatoday | SUNDAY • 27 NOVEMBER 2022 NEWS We were warned Protection orders, lack of training were all concerns brought up by GREVIO in 2020 COUNCIL of Europe experts had warned of a lack of profes- sional training among authori- ties on domestic violence cases back in 2020. Insensitive judges and a lack of perpetrator programmes were just two of the issues flagged by the experts. The Council of Europe's group of experts on domestic violence, known as GREVIO, had flagged minimal initial training with re- gards to domestic violence and no initial training on other forms of violence against women. This was evident across all pro- fessions involved in preventing and combating violence against woman. Bernice Cassar became the third femicide victim this year, following a long history of grue- some femicides carried out by victims' husbands, partners or family relatives. Cassar's estranged husband, Roderick, fired three shots at her as she drove to work at the Cor- radino Industrial Estate. He hit her twice – in the face and the chest – killing her on the spot. Bernice bled to death on the wet tarmac outside her car in the industrial estate where she was heading to work. Roderick fled the scene and locked himself in his Qrendi home for hours until police stormed in and arrested him. Before her death, Bernice filed several police reports and opened judicial proceedings against her husband, exhausting all legal avenues to seek remedy. Bernice suffered an altercation with her husband outside the Floriana health centre on Sun- day, 13 November, where she had been receiving medical at- tention. She immediately fled the health centre to the nearby police head- quarters, where she waited seven hours, unsuccessfully, to file her report. She returned the next day, and waited another two hours to file her report. When police called the hus- band, he failed to turn up for the interview. But police never arrested him when he failed to turn up at the Floriana Police Headqaurters on 20 November. Cassar had filed a total of five reports, and left the marital home herself on Mother's Day with her children when her hus- band allegedly put a knife to her throat. A month later, when her hus- band was admitted to hospital and Cassar brought the children to visit their dad, the woman was again attacked by her husband, allegedly threatening to shoot her. Her lawyer followed up on this threat with an application for a protection order that was re- peatedly breached by Roderick Cassar. Charges had been issued for three of the reports that were filed in May, but the relevant court cases were scheduled to be heard in a years' time. Police and judges lack training and sensitivity GREVIO's recommendations from 2020 are all the more rel- evant two years later, with three femicides taking place over an 11-month period. "Police officers who routine- ly receive reports or respond to call-outs are not trained on the dynamics of domestic violence, nor on the gendered aspect of such violence, its risk factors and the need to ensure victim protection," the GREVIO report said. "This leads to the phenome- non of dual reporting, alleged refusals to receive reports, inter- viewing the victims in an insen- sitive manner, lack of recording of patterns of abuse, barriers to reporting for particularly vul- nerable categories of women and insufficient and ineffective collection of evidence in cases of rape and domestic violence." GREVIO also pointed to insen- sitivity among judges, leading to repeat victimisation and low levels of prosecutions and con- victions. "Judges appear to have inad- equate understanding of the change in paradigm in proving rape, of the role and importance of emergency barring orders and protection orders in breaking the cycle of violence in cases of domestic violence, and of the role and importance of referring perpetrators to domestic vio- lence programmes." Risk assessment and electronic tagging GREVIO dedicates a section of its report to risk assessment and management, insisting that an assessment of the victim's risk be carried out systematically and speedily by the relevant author- ities and provide co-ordinated protection and support. One recommendation it makes is to introduce safety plan mech- Malta's last string of femicides since 2020 all took place in the past 11 months. The system failures that led to the latest murder were pointed out two years ago. Nicole Meilak reports Maltese women face a threat to their lives each time they seek help CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 Maybe the fourth estate might have been under- standing of the plight of domestic violence sufferers; maybe it did give a voice to the survivors and the ac- tivists; maybe it did under- stand that the patriarchy and a cultural problem of anger and aggression was something it needed to talk about. But it did not truly wake up to the reality that Mal- ta's utter shortcomings in legal and judicial protec- tion, means that each time a woman is assaulted, and each time somebody suffers some form of domestic vio- lence, women are more like- ly to be killed than men. This is the simple fact. This is what Bernice represents: Maltese women face a threat to their lives each time they seek help from a system that frustrates them, that is una- ble to give them real protec- tion, that is not even capa- ble of mustering the power to urgently answer to these threats from the men who – like Cassar's husband – are free to ignore requests for police 'interviews'; or like the murderer of Chantelle Chetcuti, who can be guar- anteed the freedom of a hol- iday while out on bail thanks to a judicial system whose sluggish pace seems to be of no consequence. And there is no doubt that Malta's inept minister for home affairs, Byron Camill- eri, has much to answer for. He has been unable to read the shortcomings of the sys- tem he presides over. And with him, Commis- sioner of Police Angelo Gafà, who despite having clear knowledge of the handicaps of the Domestic Violence Unit, which his wife-police inspector is also part of, has been unable to fully rise to the challenge before us.

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