Police are obliged to investigate domestic violence, even in the absence of victim’s complaint

The Commission for Domestic Violence said that evidence needed to be collected independently of the victim

The police said on Saturday that they had pressed charges against the aggressor
The police said on Saturday that they had pressed charges against the aggressor

The Commission for Gender-based and Domestic Violence has stressed that the police need not wait for a complaint by a victim of domestic violence before launching an investigation.

The commission was reacting a video of a man who could be seen kicking open the door of a shop in Bisazza Street in Sliema, before attacking a person inside the shop.

“The fact that the police pressed charged without there being a formal report is in accordance with the law on domestic violence and gender-based violence, as well as the Istanbul Convention, which Malta ratified in 2014,” the commission said in a statement.

It added that it was clear from the video that “an act of violence had taken place and that the law had been broken”.

The commission added that it was also clear that the police could not only rely on the victim’s testimony, but needed to “investigate and seek further evidence”, as had happened in this case.  

“The collection of evidence should take place independently of the victim because in some circumstances, the victim refuses to provide any evidence, even in court, which could lead to the case being dropped,” it said.  

“No research exists on why victims refuse to offer evidence, but we know that there could be circumstances where the victim could be threatened by her partner and would be too scared.”

There were also instances, the commission said, where family members might put pressure on the victim for them not to escalate the matter.

“It is for this reason that we should not place more responsibility on the victim who would have to go back home and put her life, and sometimes, that of her children, at risk,” the commission said, adding that cases of domestic violence affected all of society and not just the victim.    

On Saturday, the police announced that they had issued charges against the aggressor, after the video was first posted online on Wednesday evening. The police said that the victim and had refused to cooperate and that the shop owner did not want to press charges.

READ MORE: Sliema attack: Police charged aggressor despite victim’s refusal to cooperate