District and Community Court Judges in the Marshall Islands participated in a two-day consultation on 21 and 22 August aimed at strengthening their role in the implementation of the 2011 Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act.
The consultation, led by the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT) and supported by the Government of Australia, examined strategies to strengthen existing systems to support the domestic violence prevention and protection measures set out in the Act. The consultation was facilitated by SPC RRRT staff together with Retired Judge John Adams, who has over 45 years of experience working in family law in New Zealand.
The consultation was opened by the Hon. Chief Justice Carl Ingram, who highlighted the importance of Judges understanding how to apply the law to ensure gender equality and family protection. He stated, “These cases that will come before you for protection orders are difficult. However, if you hear a case early and make a decision that protects a person, you may save that person from injury and even death.”
The consultation for Judges included discussions on the links between gender, human rights and domestic violence, and the specific legal issues faced when applying the Act. Guidelines to support the courts in interpreting and applying the Act were examined and refined during the two days. These will now be made available to all Judges.
The Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act came into force in 2011 and provides protection orders to assist those that are affected by family violence and ensures their safety. It defines and criminalises domestic violence, namely any physical, sexual, psychological, or economic abuse against family members.
The consultation is part of RRRT’s regional judicial strengthening programme which provides tailor-made training programmes to support judges, magistrates, lawyers and prosecutors in implementing family violence legislation.
In recognition of the need for continuous engagement with justice actors, RRRT provides on-going support after the initial consultation to collect data and develop judicial tools, and offers follow up training, as needed.
The first consultation as part of this regional programme was held in Tonga in December 2016 and the second in Solomon Islands in July 2017. In the next six months, similar consultations are planned in Kiribati, Nauru and Vanuatu.