Dealing with Domestic Violence Part One

How to protect yourself under the Law

Credit: American Psychological Association

In this article which is part of a two-part series, I’ll be dealing with the sensitive topic of Domestic Violence. Let me state from the outset that abuse in any form should not be tolerated and no human being should be subject to treatment that demeans them or puts them in fear of harm to their person. If you are in such a position, it is crucial that you seek help. Your life may very well depend upon it. What follows is a brief discussion of the law pertaining to Domestic Violence in Trinidad and Tobago.

What is Domestic Violence?

This area of law is governed by the Domestic Violence Act Chap 45:56 (“the Act”) as amended by the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Act 2020. According to section 3 of the Act as amended domestic violence includes physical, sexual, emotional or psychological or financial abuse committed by a respondent against a person who is in a domestic relationship with the respondent. A domestic relationship not only includes spouses and children but because of the amendment, it also includes persons who are in a dating relationship.

Protection Order

The principal legal remedy available to someone who has experienced domestic violence would be to apply to the Magistrate’s Court for a Protection Order. According to section 4 (1)of the Act as amended:

An application for a protection order may be made by a person in a domestic relationship with the respondent, on the ground that the respondent engaged in domestic violence with that person”.

The law also permits that applications for protection orders can be made on behalf of children under the age of sixteen. This may be done by a parent or guardian, an adult member of the household or by a representative of the Children Authority. The Court has extensive powers under section 6 of the Act with reference to granting a Protection Order.

According to section 6(1)(a) The Court may prohibit the respondent from:

“(i)engaging or threatening to engage in conduct which would constitute domestic violence towards the applicant;

(ii) being on premises specified in the Order, that are premises frequented by the applicant including any residence, property, business, school or place of employment;

(iii) being in a locality specified in the Order;

(iv) engaging in direct or indirect communication with the applicant;

(v) taking possession of, damaging, converting or otherwise dealing with property that the applicant may have an interest in, or is reasonably used by the applicant, as the case may be;

(vi) approaching the applicant within a specified distance;

(vii) approaching a named person who is in a domestic relationship with the applicant or the respondent

(viii) causing or encouraging another person to engage in conduct referred to in paragraphs (i) to (vi)”.

These are just some of the powers available to the Court and your legal adviser would be best placed to advise you if any of the additional powers stipulated in the Act are applicable to your situation.

Factors to be considered by the Court

Upon hearing an application for a protection order, there are several factors to be taken into account by the court. According to section 7 (1) of the Act

In determining whether or not to impose one or more of the prohibitions or directions specified under section 6, the Court shall have regard to the following:

(a) the nature, history or pattern of the violence that has occurred and whether a previous Protection Order or Interim Order has been issued;

(b) the need to protect the applicant and any other person for whose benefit the Protection Order has been granted from further domestic violence;

(c ) the welfare of any child;

(d) the accommodation needs of the applicant and any other person;

(e) the hardship that may be caused as a result of the making of the Order;

(f) the income, assets and financial obligations of the respondent, the applicant and any other person affected by the Order;

(g) where applicable any risk assessment ordered under subsection (2);

(h) any other matter, that in the circumstances of the case, the Court considers relevant”.

To be continued.

Disclaimer: This article is written for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or as giving rise to an attorney-client relationship.

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Colin Denoon

Colin Denoon is an Attorney residing in the beautiful twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. He is a proud alum of the University of the West Indies.