Police need more resources in fight against domestic violence – Angelo Gafà

Xtra on TVM | Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà says reports of domestic violence have increased significantly since a dedicated unit was set up two years’ ago

Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà
Police Commissioner Angelo Gafà

Angelo Gafà said the police need more resources to deal with domestic violence cases but refrained from identifying failings in the recent murder of Bernice Cassar.

The Police Commissioner said allegations concerning police and other agency failings were the subject of a ministerial inquiry led by former judge Geoffrey Valenzia.

“I have to be sensitive in what I say because there are ongoing criminal proceedings and a ministerial inquiry tasked with probing what could have gone wrong and whether there are things in the system that need to improve,” Gafà said on TVM’s Xtra, where he was interviewed by Saviour Balzan.

Cassar, a mother of two, was murdered at the Corradino industrial estate by her husband as she drove to work last month.

Roderick Cassar has been accused of murder and is the first person to be charged with femicide since the concept was introduced earlier this year.

Cassar’s murder shocked Malta, especially since she had reported her husband to the police and even obtained a protection order from the courts. However, police failed to act in a timely manner when Cassar twice reported her husband for breaching the court order. The last report was made just 24 hours before she was shot in the face and chest.

The police force has received flak over inaction after Roderick Cassar failed to turn up when summoned to do so by the police, following his wife’s report.

But Gafà steered clear from pinpointing any failings, insisting he wanted to wait for the inquiry and its recommendations. The Police Commissioner said he appeared before judge Valenzia and ensured him of the police force’s full cooperation.

“Anything I say is of no consolation to the victim’s family or survivors of domestic abuse… I want to wait for the inquiry’s recommendations, which should then be implemented,” he said.

Gafà insisted domestic violence required a multi-agency approach. He said a dedicated police unit on domestic violence was set up in October 2020 and this has expanded from 20 officers to 35.

“It must be said that since the creation of the domestic violence unit, reports have increased substantially. We need more resources but I stress, this is a field that requires a multi-agency approach, or rather a whole-of-society approach,” he said.

Gafà said that the rate of acquittals after police prosecute an alleged perpetrator is high because in more than three quarters of these cases the alleged victim chooses not to testify.