CCJ grants ex-partners right to protection order

The end of a relationship will not prevent a former partner from obtaining a protection order.

Yesterday the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) handed down a ruling that reversed a decision where the mother of a two-year-old son had been turned down for a protection order against the child’s father because they were no longer together.

As a consequence of the decision, Attorney General Dale Marshall said the CCJ had cleared up any doubt on the law.

“That ruling will bind our courts and there is therefore no need to revisit the legislation to clear up that matter. This was a matter of interpreting a statute and the CCJ has ruled on the interpretation and application of that statute,” he stated.

Before reaching its decision the CCJ along with hearing from the woman’s attorney Lalu Hanuman and the Office of the Attorney General, invited the Organization Safe Space Movement in association with the International Centre for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD) Inc. and UN Women Multi-Country Office – Caribbean to assist as amici curiae (or friends of the court).

After the mother applied for a protection order in mid-2020 the magistrate declined jurisdiction because, based on the facts and the woman’s responses, she did not qualify under section 4 of the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act. Her former partner’s lawyer contended that the parties were not in a cohabitational relationship, nor a domestic relationship; neither were they in a visiting relationship and the woman was not a spouse as outlined by the Act.

The mother and father lived together for almost two years during which their son was born but the relationship ended in 2019. They had an on and off relationship until mid-2020 and after an incident the woman applied for a protection order for her and her son.

Her attorney had contended that even though the relationship ended, the magistrate had jurisdiction since the woman was a former spouse and thus, qualified for protection.

The Court of Appeal in Barbados sided with the magistrate ruling that the magistrate did not err by dismissing the matter on the basis that she had no jurisdiction. The majority held that the magistrate was entitled to decline jurisdiction.

“On the majority view, it could not be the case that any person who once had a living relationship with an alleged perpetrator of domestic violence, could apply for a protection order under the Act, without having regard for the time that elapsed since that past relationship,” the CCJ stated in its recap of the lead up to the matter coming before them.

However, the woman took the matter to the CCJ seeking clarification on the term “former spouse” with her lawyer stating that she fell within that definition by law, and should have been granted the “necessary protection”.

The CCJ was unanimously of the view that the magistrate did have jurisdiction to hear the case filed and – agreeing with minority decision of the Court of Appeal – that the woman fell within the range of persons who were entitled to apply for the protection order.

The matter was heard by Justice Adrian Saunders, President and Justices Winston Anderson, Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, Denys Barrow and Peter Jamadar.

Others appearing before the court were Acting Solicitor General Anika N. Jackson, Jared Richards and Fianne Best for the Attorney General. Anya Lorde appeared for OSS & ICAAD and Leah Thompson appeared for UN Women Multi Country Office – Caribbean. (AC)

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