Lynette Seebaran-Suite

The sluggish court system in Trinidad and Tobago is leaving domestic violence victims exposed to further harm from perpetrators.

This is the view shared by a senior official of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago and the Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

There are approximately 8,000 applications for Protection Orders before the courts in T&T.

According to LATT senior member, Lynette Seebaran-Suite, these applications are mangled into an already overwhelmed court system.

Even though the first hearing of Protection Order applications is to be heard within seven days, she said these matters can go on for some time leaving victims exposed to further harm.

“What I am suggesting is that there should be a time limit imposed in legislation or regulations for domestic violence matters, let us say three months,” Seebaran-Suite said during a Webinar yesterday hosted by LATT.

Guardian Media understands for the period 2017-2018, 72 per cent of the reasons for adjournments recorded were related to the unavailability of the magistrate.

While some people are still fortunate to access this avenue of protection provided under the act, Seebaran-Suite noted there are others who are not so lucky.

“If you are in a same-sex relationship and you are a victim of domestic violence, you cannot avail yourself for protection of this legislation,” she said.

In addition to persons in same-sex relationships, Seebaran-Suite suggested the category of applicants be expanded to include children between the ages of 16 and 18.

Attorney Donielle Jones stated she was pained by the comments from “some judicial officers” to victims of abuse.

The attorney said, “This is not a court of morality so whether an applicant is committing adultery or fornication is irrelevant, it is whether he or she is being abused.”

Last month alone recorded 212 domestic violence reports, 20 fewer cases than the number recorded in 2019.

Head of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Roberta Clarke, believes even with more cases being reported, there is still a pattern of under-policing.

Clarke said, “When women make reports of domestic violence, criminal assaults and threats to murder, the police stations most typical response is to direct victims to seek remedy under the domestic violence act so in that sense Police are behaving like a referral mechanism and not behaving as police.”

Acting Assistant Superintendent of the Gender-Based Violence Unit, Claire Guy-Alleyne, indicated that officers attached to the unit are trained to handle a variety of situations.

She also said even though the unit is in its “embryo stage,” it has had both successes and challenges. One of the challenges she noted included the lack of available shelters for survivors.

“I know the Office of the Prime Minister they were working on a project but due to COVID, I’m not too sure where that stands now,” according to Guy-Alleyne.

Before the amendments to the Domestic Violence Act are sent to Parliament, LATT is hoping for another round of consultations with the Attorney General and other stakeholders.

According to data from the C-A-D-V, over 100,000 women in Trinidad and Tobago, in the 15 to 64 age bracket, are estimated to have experienced some type of abuse while 11,000 are likely to still be in an abusive relationship.

You can make a domestic violence report by calling 999, 555 or via the TTPS Mobile App.