Magistrates, lawyers and police prosecutors in the Solomon Islands recently participated in consultations aimed at strengthening their role in the implementation of the Family Protection Act 2014.
The consultations led by the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resources Team (RRRT) and supported by the Government of Australia examined strategies to strengthen the existing systems to support the prevention and protection measures against domestic violence set out in the Act.
Over a period of 10 days from 17 to 26 July, SPC- RRRT conducted three consultations with the following justice-sector service providers: (1) the Magistrates, (2) the Police Prosecutors, and (3) the Public Solicitor’s Office including those working in the outer islands.
The Family protection Act came into force on 1 April 2016. It defines and criminalises domestic violence. The Act prohibits physical, sexual, psychological, and economic abuse against family members.
The Act provides for protection mechanisms to assist those that are affected by domestic violence. Significant is the power of the court to issue Protection Orders, which include various conditions to protect victims of violence within domestic relationships.
Focusing on “The Family Protection Act Human Rights Law and Practice”, the consultations for Magistrates discussed links between gender, human rights and domestic violence; developed tools to support the court in its work on the Family Protection Act and discussed some of the specific legal issues faced when applying the Act, including key challenges.
The Public Solicitor’s and Police Prosecutor’s consultation discussed links between domestic violence, human rights and gender; analysed procedure, evidence and remedies in the Family Protection Act; and examined the role of the Public Solicitors and Police Prosecutors in implementing the Act.
“Crucial to the effective implementation of the Family Protection Act is ensuring the accessibility of remedies provided under the Family Protection Act to victims of family violence. From a human rights lens, combating family violence requires addressing the barriers that confront victims of family violence when they engage with the justice service providers that offer remedies for their protection. These consultations provided an opportunity for Justice Sector Providers to reflect on the implementation of the Family Protection Act to date and provoked critical thinking around the development of practical tools and resources to enhance the implementation the Family Protection Act through their work,” RRRT Acting Director, Nicol Cave said.
SPC RRRT’s support to the Solomon Islands Family Protection Act commenced in 2009 with the placement of a staff member within the Ministry to support the following: the development of the Bill, the creation of the Violence Against Women (VAW) Legislative Task Force in 2010, the development of drafting instructions based on international best practice standards in VAW legislation in 2010 and 2011, public consultations on the Bill in 2011 to 2012, drafting of the Bill in 2013 to 2014, drafting the implementation plan and briefing the members of parliament about the Bill in the months and weeks before the Bill was passed.
The current consultations are part of RRRT’s regional judicial strengthening programme. Through this programme, RRRT works with justice-sector service providers and develops tailor-made training programmes to support 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.
In the next six months, similar consultations are planned in Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Vanuatu.