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Handle interviews of victims as police officers – Justice d’Auvergne

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Monday, March 7, 2005 - A retired Supreme Court Judge has advised officers of the St. Lucia Crisis Centre to handle their interviews with victims of domestic violence as a police officer would.

Madam Justice Suzie d’Auvergne who delivered the feature address at the Centre’s Annual General Meeting on Saturday, said a report of domestic violence is and must be regarded as a report of crime. In light of that, she said it was essential that the interviewing of victims be handled with utmost care.

“The interviewing officer must be aware of the sensitivity of the situation, and bare in mind that this collection of information or evidence as we call it in legal circles from the victim is crucial to the future safety of the victim and the behaviour of the offender, and may even reduce the need for return calls to further incidents,” Justice d’Auvergne said.

Madam Justice d’Auvergne said while it was true that interviewing officers were not law enforcement personnel, when conducting interviews of that nature they were in-fact performing the task of officers of the law: “The crisis centre may be the first port of call for a domestic violence incident, but very often it does not end there. Hence the reason why it is so important that such reported incidents are reported properly from inception. There must be that professional approach, tempered with kindness …not mercy, kindness.”

Speaking on the topic, The New Face of Family Law in St. Lucia, Madam Justice d’Auvergne said while victims of domestic violence always had legal right to petition the high court to seek redress, they were kept stranded by the exorbitant cost of legal fees in High Court proceedings.

These issues, she said are addressed in the Domestic Violence Act, which focuses less on whether a legal or equitable right had been infringe and more on whether a physical and psychological act was done or threatened against someone entitled to the protection of the state.

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