Controversial domestic violence assessment tool changed

The government has changed the tool used to assess domestic violence risks, now opting for the Danger Assessment Tool

File photo
File photo

Professionals in social work and the police corps are being trained on a new tool to assess domestic violence risks, after the government opted to change its domestic violence assessment tool.

Risk assessors are using the Danger Assessment tool to help identify the level of danger that a domestic violence victim has of being killed by an abuser.

This tool is replacing the DASH Risk Assessment Tool used by Aġenzija Sapport’s domestic violence risk assessment service. This assessment consists of 27 questions on the reporting incident and past incidents of domestic violence, but it’s self-reporting nature has made it controversial.

The change in assessment tool was made after a study by the Social Policy Ministry suggested that the tool be revised and that an alternative be introduced. It was later concluded that the Danger Assessment Tool will be used.

Domestic Violence Commissioner Samantha Pace Gasan said on Tuesday that risk assessors, police officers and social workers have been trained on this tool. She also said that this training will continue, and the tool will be adapted to the Maltese context.

Pace Gasan was speaking at a press briefing by the Home Affairs Ministry on the government’s progress in the recommendations of the Valenzia inquiry.

The Valenzia inquiry was a probe by retired judge Geoffrey Valenzia into the circumstances that led to the murder of Bernice Cassar, who was killed by her estranged husband in November 2022.

The inquiry made several recommendations, including the introduction of electronic tagging, more magistrates focused on domestic violence cases, and more coordination between the courts.

Pace Gasan said that a draft bill introducing electronic tagging will be discussed in parliament at the start of 2024, after it was tabled over two years ago. Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri said that there will be an amendment to the bill to allow for electronic in cases of domestic violence, but only if the victim requests it.

Pace Gasan said that more court hearings are being allocated to domestic violence cases, with time slots for hearings of high-risk cases. She also said that there is a working group within the Home Affairs Ministry to strengthen coordination between the Court of Magistrates and Family Court.

In the coming weeks, the government will also table a draft bill to change the legal definition of a family or domestic unit, so that it can be more suitable for dealing with domestic violence cases.