Zero tolerance on assault charges

Written By : CHarlotte Peters. Violence or assault is a traumatic experience for any man, woman or child and the consequences can be very devastating. Victims of violence or assault
27 Jun 2008 12:00

image Written By : CHarlotte Peters. Violence or assault is a traumatic experience for any man, woman or child and the consequences can be very devastating.
Victims of violence or assault often experience problems associated with mental health, emotional distress and poor reproductive health.
It is believed that assault occasioning actual bodily harm is the most prevalent domestic violence case recorded by police in Fiji.
There is no excuse for assault or violence and no one deserves to be threatened, humiliated and beaten.
To date organisations and institution have begun to develop programmes and policies to counter and combat the issue of assault and violence. As a result of the increasing number of assault cases in the country, the Police Force has adopted a zero tolerance policy on all assault charges effective from June 6, 2008.
It is understood that under the policy those charged with assault will not be given bail, but instead be locked up and produced in court within 48 hours.
The force adopted the policy following the increase in reported assault cases throughout the country which it said was of great concern.
Police media liaison officer Atunaisa Sokomuri said there was a notable increase in assault cases ranging from common assault, acting with intent to cause bodily harm, assault on police officers and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
He said they found that assault cases were on the rise and decided to put a stop to it, through the enforcement of the new policy.
This year alone, he said from January to May, 18 per cent of reported cases were for assault and the Western Division recorded 496 cases of assault.
“Now when people are brought in for assault charges they will not be bailed but presented in court.
“Before accused persons used to be questioned and released on bail, but not anymore,” said Mr Sokomuri.
Mr Sokomuri said the reinforcement of the policy would act as a deterrent to everyone, particularly those who carried out acts of violence.
Prior to the enforcement of the policy, he said the force had received reports from wives/ women who were assaulted by their husbands/partners, and those charged with assault were let off easily.
But with the new policy, Mr Sokomuri said any reports of assault would be investigated and if proven guilty the offender could face a jail term.
“The force is working on preventative measures to reduce the number of robberies with violent cases.
“Individuals and the community as a whole must become proactive in protecting themselves as well as their properties,” he said.
The Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre has welcomed the initiative describing it as an excellent move and said the force should adhere to and monitor the policy.
Coordinator Shamima Ali said this showed police were taking the issue seriously and this would act as a deterrent to all.
“The no drop policy could act as a deterrent for those intending to commit offences but at the same time police need to monitor it closely,” said Ms Ali.
Violence against women is quite common in Fiji with most offenders escaping punishment. Women’s organisations, institutions and NGOs continue to call and fight for stricter punishments to be imposed by our law enforcement agencies and courts.
Ministry of Women communications officer Fred Elbourne in responding to questions on the policy commended its introduction saying they would only get involved if requested to by the relevant authorities namely the courts.
He said in cases of assault or violence on children if the child was deemed to be at risk the Department of Social Welfare was mandated to take the child into protective custody.
Mr Elbourne they were working with other organisations in campaigning and raising awareness and legislation concerning women.
“We are concerned when women are assaulted and we get involved through awareness campaigns and we lobby Cabinet through our Minister,” said Mr Elbourne.
Last week more than 30 Ratu Kadavulevu School students were suspended for allegedly assaulting and terrorising other students.
This resulted in the hospitalisation of six students and interim Education Minister Filipe Bole described the suspended students as “terrorists”.
Police said their no drop policy on assault cases was still effective and would await the outcome of a meeting between the ministry and school before proceeding with their investigation.
On Monday Mr Bole said the ministry and many stakeholders were concerned with the issue of student discipline and behavior management in some of our schools.
The ministry he said continued to receive reports of teachers inflicting corporal punishment and verbal abuse at students. He said such illegal practices must cease because they were against the laws of our land. “Meting out corporal punishment also demonstrates the lack of knowledge and patience in using alternate forms of discipline.
“Researches have shown that parents and teachers, inflict corporal punishment because they do not know how else to handle a challenging situation,” said Mr Bole.
The minister said corporal punishment was seen as a human rights violation and resulted in both physical and emotional trauma.
Mr Bole said a major concern was the issue of “gang assault” and “bullying” on other students particularly in boarding schools.
He said gang assault can be brought about by house patriotism as senior students go to great lengths to maintain or uplift the reputation of their house.
While the intention might be noble he said, senior house prefects and students must ensure that this was done in a moral and legal manner.
He reminded the house teachers, house captains, house prefects and senior students that no house rule or school tradition was above the law of our land.
Meanwhile, a mother is likely to spend time in jail after her son a 16 year-old secondary school student pressed charges against her for beating him with a hose pipe. The mother pleaded guilty to act with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and admitted beating her son on suspicion he was sniffing glue and smoking marijuana.
The student is believed to have been beaten with a hose pipe and struck on the head with a flower vase resulting in him sustaining injuries to his head and body.
The mother is expected to be sentenced in August.

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