The Law Enforcement Council has noted that the police and Public Prosecutor’s Office in the Caribbean Netherlands are not yet entirely working in accordance with the 2017 instruction of the Attorney-General of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Curaçao, of Sint Maarten and of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba regarding relational violence. Periodic reporting to the Attorney-General is lacking. The objective of this instruction is to improve the tackling of domestic violence by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the police.
In the fourth quarter of 2019, the Law Enforcement Council investigated the approach to domestic violence in the Caribbean Netherlands (Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba). In doing so, the Council initially focused on the judicial approach.
When it comes to repressive action against domestic violence, the public prosecutor’s office and the police are the designated parties to act. An issue is the fact that victims of domestic violence sometimes don’t want to report to the police in fear of the consequences that this may trigger. In these cases, the Council finds that the police should always consult with the public prosecutor on the desired next steps. The principal starting point should be that domestic violence is not accepted.
In the Caribbean Netherlands a promising start was made in 2017 with the tackling of domestic violence. In that year, the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and the public entities Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba signed an administrative agreement regarding domestic violence. The result was an increase of both the knowledge and understanding about the scope of domestic violence for professionals, as well as the creating of awareness in the public debate about this topic.
According to the Council, the repressive approach cannot be separated from the preventive approach. Awareness and information are important aspects in the prevention of domestic violence. The judicial parties are making useful contributions in this regard. The cooperation and exchange of information between the relevant organisations of both the judicial sector and care organisations are essential and could be improved.
The Council emphasises that the structural approach to combating domestic violence requires a long-term effort. Everything that has been initiated under the administrative accord will have to be continued after this agreement expires in 2020.
The Council has made several recommendations to the Netherlands Minister of Justice and Security (JenV). It regards, among other things, legislation, consultation between the police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the exchange of information with the sector partners.
The Minister of JenV recently submitted the report of the Council to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament, and informed Parliament that both the involved ministries and the organisations embrace the Council’s recommendations. According to the Minister, it is time to act and to swiftly implement the recommendations.
The Council presented its report with recommendations to the Minister shortly before the coronavirus pandemic. The measures taken in the context of this crisis, such as the closing of schools and staying indoors as much as possible, create additional risks for domestic violence. That is why it is now even more important than before that society remains well-informed about the risks, the awareness and detection of domestic violence and the possibilities of reporting suspicions thereof, the Council states.
The Council’s report is public and can be found on the Council’s website: www.raadrechtshandhaving.com