By Robertson S. Henry
KINGSTOWN, St Vincent — St Vincent and the Grenadines; and Cuba are struggling to come to grips with the shooting death of Cuban-born Vincentian citizen Arianna Taylor-Israel on January 30, allegedly by her husband, Mitchell Israel. Minister for gender affairs and social development Frederick Stephenson cleared the air on a critical issue.
According to minister Stephenson, police officers do not need a warrant to arrest an alleged domestic abuser, if they believe that failure to act would result in serious physical injury or death.
The minister was addressing parliament at the time, as the attention of many focused on the failure of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines police force, to detain and even arrest Mitchell Israel; even though a warrant was issued following three reports by the now-deceased Arianna Taylor-Israel over five days that he had threatened to kill her.
The mentioned reports were made on January 25, 26, and 29, respectively. According to police reports, Israel is alleged to have used his licensed firearm to kill his wife outside the St Martin’s Secondary School, the couple’s elder son’s school.
Addressing parliament on last Thursday during the 2020 budget debate, Stephenson cited the Domestic Violence Act, adding that the law speaks of the avenues for action for victims, such as their right to protection and support.
“Persons have still yet to understand what they need to do in a report of a matter of domestic violence,” said Stephenson. He further pointed out that every case of domestic violence when reported to the police, must be taken seriously, adding that the Domestic Violence Act says police cannot tell an alleged victim of domestic violence, whether male or female: “go home, sleep, makeup, wake up.
“The Act, Mr Speaker, provides broad outlines as to what is to be done. When a report of domestic violence is reported to the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines police force, the response mechanism, Mr. Speaker is instantly activated.” Section 19 of the Domestic Violence Act of St Vincent and the Grenadines, mandates the police to receive and investigate reports of domestic violence.
In clarifying the actions needed when a report is made, the minister informed parliament:
“Mr Speaker, and as such, it is necessary for these reports to be lodged at the police station and a medical report form be given to the victim so that a medical form can be taken to a medical practitioner, and when that medical form is returned, the police will continue their investigations.
“The police also, under the Act, have the right and the power to act without a warrant, in cases where there is reasonable cause to believe that failure to act may result in serious physical injury or death.
“These are all laid out in the Domestic Violence Act, and, Mr. Speaker, we are saying that the policy of the government, in relation to the Domestic Violence Act, which is a mandate of the Gender Affairs Division, there are a lot of things that we ought to do.”
According to minister Stephenson, Section 22 of the Domestic Violence Act spells out the duty of the police, when entering premises in domestic violence situations to assist any victim who is injured. They must ensure the welfare and safety of any child or dependent, and to prevent any further breach of the law.
Stephenson went on to state that the Gender Affairs Division of his ministry is mandated to assist victims of domestic violence.
“Reports may come from several government agencies and they come to the ministry; they may come from the ministry of education, they may come from the ministry of health.
“They may come from workers, from parents, from guardians or other interested persons or institutions.”
“Once these matters are reported to the Gender Affairs Division, persons within the ministry would continue to work with the persons — the perpetrators and even the victims,” said minister Stephensons.