We, the undersigned non-governmental organisations and individuals, are gravely concerned by the decision of the Magistrate’s Court in the case against Sean Anthony McGahren. We feel it gives a message that aggressors can get away with almost anything when committing an offence of domestic violence.
We are also deeply concerned to see that the prosecution decided to remove charges related to the offence following the victim’s wish to withdraw her complaint and that the Court acceded to the request.
We find this worrying given that the offence of domestic violence is an ‘ex officio´ nature and has been so since 2006. This was further consolidated with the ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention that now forms part of our law as of the 14th May 2018.
It is therefore of great concern to see that the highest authorities in our country, the very ones that are meant to protect the vulnerable are still ignorant of the law and the rights of victims.
Withdrawing charges of domestic violence was not only done contrary to law, but was in breach of the fundamental rights of women given that these type of offence committed constitute gender based violence.
This is not the first time that prosecution and courts have taken this measure in cases of domestic violence, but in this particular case we cannot emphasis enough that arms proper were used and shots were fired.
We question whether had the situation not been a domestic one, the offender would have got away with a fine.
Such decision by the prosecution and the courts send a message that domestic violence is condoned and that perpetrators are free from culpability.
Women are and continue to remain victims of intimate partner violence and domestic abuse and such judgments do not promote the protection that is deserving and is putting women further into a more vulnerable position.
This statement is issued by:
Women’s Rights Foundation, Victim Support Malta, SOAR, St Jeanne Antide Foundation, Men Against Violence, The Good Shepherd Sisters – Dar Merhba Bik Foundation, Programm Sebh – Dar Qalb Ta’Gesu, PHROM, aditus foundation, Malta Humanist Association, Loraine Spiteri, Dr. Marceline Naudi.
The interaction between two Members of Parliament on Friday 20 November was an offence to the entire nation. It highlighted the almost absolute lack of accountability at the highest levels of Malta’s democratic institutions, and confirmed that Malta is miles away from ensuring a society that is free from harassment and violence against women.
We are extremely concerned at the comfort enjoyed by Malta’s Members of Parliament that they are free to adopt a language and tone that would be totally unacceptable in any other context. Beyond formal considerations of Parliamentary privilege, we find it unacceptable that the altercation did not trigger an outright condemnation by every single other Member of Parliament.
As an NGO working with vulnerable and socially excluded communities in Malta, we are too familiar with such language being used against our clients, staff members, and volunteers. We are also too familiar with the lack of shame accompanying such bullying and harassament. Yet what else can we really expect, when Malta’s highest democratic institution behaves with such impunity, such impropriety, such disrespect?
We also strongly condemn the laissez-faire attitude of all Members of Parliament before an episode classifiable as violence against women and possibly punishable under Malta’s criminal legislation. In 2011 the Commission on Domestic Violence reported that around one in every four women in Malta have experienced a form of violence or abuse.
The example set in the House of Representatives, a spectacle of a woman being harassed and bullied before her peers and the entire nation, is of deep concern and should immediately attract the condemnation of Malta’s equality bodies, relevant civil society organisations and all political stakeholders. Anything short of this tells violent partners, colleagues and parents that their behaviour is, in fact, quite fine.
“Malta hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, together with the important People’s and Women’s Fora, is an excellent opportunity for it to stand firmly on the side of human rights and good governance. Friday’s episode and reactions to date do not seem to indicate that Malta is actually capable of such a stand.” (Dr. Neil Falzon, Director)
The Press Release can be downloaded here (.pdf).