MORE than 2,500 protection orders have been breached in the past five years, reported Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Ayanna Webster-Roy.
She was piloting The Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill in the Senate Monday.
She said data from the police Crime and Problem Analysis unit showed that from 2010 to June 12, 2020 a total of 2,664 protection orders were breached across nine divisions. Independent Senator Paul Richards in his later contribution said the figure amounted to about one quarter of the total protection orders issued for that period.
Webster-Roy explained that the bill addressed weaknesses and lacunas in the current legislation, provides clarity, removes ambiguity, and strengthens the protection of victims including children, including children in children's homes, and elderly.
She reported that the category of people who can apply for a protection order has been significantly widened and under the new legislation a pattern of emotional and psychological abuse no longer has to be established but an order can be given based on a single act. Webster-Roy said under existing legislation protection is not afforded unless a pattern of behaviour was established.
"This denied victims the right to protection and justice and allowed the perpetrator the leeway to abuse."
She said the 12-month requirement has been removed in the bill and it would be left to the court to decide.
She also said that with the digital world there are new avenues for controlling or threatening behaviour and the definition of unwelcome or intimidating contact has been expanded to include electronic means such as online bullying or stalking.
Webster-Roy said the bill also extends protection to people who experience abuse while dating, which is an issue that is particularly hidden. The bill also makes it an offence to allow children to be exposed to abuse which can lead to emotional distress, high levels of aggression or becoming withdrawn.
"(They leave) deep and lasting scars."
The bill also has mandatory reporting and failure to do so without a reasonable excuse is a criminal offence.
Webster-Roy also announced that state-run domestic violence shelters opened their doors Monday.
In May, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat reported that faith-based organisations (FBOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) had declined to run new shelters for victims of domestic violence being built by the State because they found the services very complex and way beyond the services they provided, and legislative changes (likely the Non-Profit Organisation Bill passed in April last year) have made such work very onerous on FBOs and NGOs, especially the legal liabilities for operators.
Opposition Senator Khadijah Ameen said there were shelters that had been receiving reduced or suppressed funding and this needed to be addressed.