Not all judges know how to punish for domestic violence
In 2016, in almost 900 cases Ukrainian courts have imposed punishment, which should no longer be used in these cases, for violence in the family.
As reported by the press-service of the Ombudsman, such are results of the monitoring carried out by the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights within the framework of monitoring the observance of women’s and men’s rights to protection from domestic violence.
“It is established that in 2016, courts have imposed penalty to 827 persons and 23 persons were sentenced to correctional labor. Despite the fact that on March 5, 2015, the Law of Ukraine “On the amendments to the Code of Ukraine of Administrative Violations as to settlement of the issue of responsibility for the commission of domestic violence” was enacted in Ukraine, and according to the Law such types of administrative penalties as fine and correctional labor are excluded from the Article 173 (2)”, – stated in the Ombudsman’s report.
As noted in the press-service, Ombudsman Valeriya Lutkovska appealed to the Chairman of the Supreme Specialized Court of Ukraine for the consideration of civil and criminal cases with a letter in which she noted the low awareness of judges of local courts regarding the latest changes introduced into Ukrainian legislation that regulate the issue of bringing perpetrators of domestic violence to administrative responsibility.
In turn, Chairman of the Supreme Specialized Court informed conclusions of the Commissioner were brought to the attention of the judges of the appellate and local courts indicating the inadmissibility of the application of the norms of the Code of Administrative Offenses, which were repealed.
At the same time, Iryna Vyrtosu, Chief Editor of the Human Rights Information Centre who is the coordinator of the “Violence: silence cannot talk”, described what measures should be used in response to domestic violence.
“Today, domestic violence is punished only by administrative responsibility. In the best case it is a protective order or offender is obliged to undergo corrective programs”, – said Iryna Vyrtosu.
According to her, an official warning about the inadmissibility of committing violence in the family or a protective order (if there are no signs of crime in the actions of the offender) is currently enacted as a part of the Law of Ukraine “On the Prevention of Domestic Violence”. In case of person committing violence in the family, the person is obligatorily sent to a crisis center for a correctional program.
Iryna Vyrtosu noted that under such protective order, the offender may also be prohibited from providing certain actions regarding the victim, for example, to receive information about her whereabouts; to search for her, if she voluntarily is in a place unknown to the offender; to visit the victim if she is temporarily not at the place of cohabitation; conduct telephone conversations with the victim, and the like.
“However, as the recent survey by the human rights center shows, the measures provided by the current legislation on domestic violence do not protect the victim in any way. The abuser does not feel punishment, often – does not appear at the court hearings, and the community does not consider the domestic violence as a crime. Therefore, activists, who demand the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, require from the state to approve this important document and streamline the national legislation to modern protection of the victims of domestic violence”, – emphasized Iryna Vyrtosu.
As a reminder, according to the study conducted by the public organization La Strada, more than 10% of prosecutors, 11% judges, 12% police representatives believe that in certain cases it is acceptable to use force or physical violence against a partner.
In addition, according to the study, very mild punishment is also the reason for the ineffective response to domestic violence. Mild punishment does not stimulate the termination of violent behavior.
“Judicial decisions were analyzed as a part of the study. And the conclusions are disappointing. For example: in 109 cases out of 300 judgments on the article of violence (Article 173-2 of the Code of Administrative Offences of Ukraine – ed.) the offenders were not held accountable. When it came to the court, the abuser avoided responsibility for different reasons”, – commented Maryna Legenka, Lawyer of the La Strada.
During the monitoring of 77 court hearings it was found out that the average duration of such hearings is from 4 to 23 minutes. Moreover, up to 10 court hearings were appointed for the same time in some courts. This is often related with the fact that the suspects fail to appear in the court. Only every sixth offender appeared in the court – the rest of the court hearings were canceled.