The necessary policies, protocols, criteria, and procedures to properly address domestic violence in Sint Maarten are not finalized or are currently lacking. The execution of tasks and procedures in practice also needs improvement for example in the reporting and referral process.
Although the Law Enforcement Council (hereafter: Council) acknowledges the constraints each organization faces, it is of the opinion that the approach to domestic violence can be improved through having (better) knowledge of the different interventions that are available and being better able to coordinate these. In order to stimulate a more coordinated approach, a common goal, vision, and consistent inter-ministerial policies are urgently needed, the Council concluded in a recently published report.
According to the Council, there is room for improvement in all four phases in the (criminal justice) approach to domestic violence that the Council has identified. The four phases are: phase 1, identification and reporting; phase 2, investigation and referral; phase 3, interventions and follow-up; phase 4, closure of a case.
Late 2019 the Council conducted thematic research concerning a topic of significant social impact: domestic violence. Domestic violence is a serious problem that not only affects the directly affected victims but threatens complete family structures, future generations, and society as a whole. The Council finds it of the utmost importance that legal action, services, and measures to protect the safety of victims of domestic violence should be available to all who need them; including shelter, practical and psychological support, criminal action, rehabilitation, and protection orders. The Council’s research specifically targeted how domestic violence cases are approached within the criminal justice system of Sint Maarten. The Council examined how cases of domestic violence are identified and handled by, and or in cooperation with, the organizations within the judicial chain and support services.
The Council observed that there are different international regulations and (draft) government policies on domestic violence. However, the Sint Maarten government still has much work to do in the implementation of these regulations and policies. Both the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (VSA) have departments and or organizations, that play an important role in the tackling of domestic violence based on separate regulations and policies.
The department of Youth of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport also plays an important role as it relates to children’s rights. However, at the time of the inspection, neither the ministry of VSA nor the ministry of Justice had an overall public policy implemented to address domestic violence. On a national level, the Criminal Code of Sint Maarten and the Public Prosecutor’s “policy instruction relational violence” include regulations and policies regarding domestic violence that specifically apply to criminal law enforcement.
Based on the findings, the Council is concerned that domestic violence victims, who might benefit from interventions that are available to criminal justice authorities and support services, are not being offered the necessary assistance. The Council, therefore, made nine recommendations to the minister of Justice regarding the approach to domestic violence in Sint Maarten. These relate to, among other things, the drafting and implementing of inter-ministerial policy, establishing a victim office, as well as a reporting code, providing officials with the necessary training, and creating awareness within the community.
The report and all other Council reports can be found on the Council’s website: www.raadrechtshandhaving.com or http://rrh-sxm.org.