The role of the Family Violence Court in the overall structure of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration is highly regarded.
So says, the Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.), Papali’i John Taimalelagi, during an interview with the Samoa Observer on the services provided by their Ministry in relation to Family Violence in the country.
He pointed out that Family Violence Court has been in Operation since Sept 2013 immediately after passing of Family Safety Act 2013.
The then Family Violence Court deals with issues pertaining to violence within family and providing support through intervention programs outside the usual Court based litigation model and monitoring through appearances before the Family Violence Court in consultation with program providers.
The Chief Executive Officer emphasized the need for victims to know there are ways to safeguard them such as “Protection Orders”.
According to Papali’i in the past five years, the Family Court has dealt with the highest cases since their establishment.
“The amount of cases completed within the different courts and the Family Violence Court reflect the most workload."
“There is a constant increase in case completed before the Family Court over the years, with a 53 per cent increase from the previous year.”
For Financial Year 2013-2014, 2,443 cases was heard before the Family Violence Court; for FY 2014-2015 a total of 2,526; FY 2015-2016 it decreased down to 2,365 and for FY 2016-2017 it increased significantly to 3,365 cases, says Papali’i.
Another avenue the Family Violence Court holds is the diversions of Family Group Conferences and pre-sentence meetings.
Data collected indicates that in 2013-2014 70 cases was handled through diversions. The next financial year it increased to 256 cases, for 2015-2016 it further increased to 260 cases and for 2016-2017 it hiked up 11 per cent more or 292 cases that was diverted.
“According to the trend from year to year, it reflects the Court’s recognition of such service,” said Papali’i.
He highlighted the average age of the victims was 34 and most are women.
“Majority of parties before the Court are legally unrepresented. And so we have the probation and parole services that work in collaborations with S.V.S.G, Teen Challenge Samoa, Fesoasoani Trust, Fa’ataua le Ola in providing rehabilitation and reintegration programs."
“Alcohol abuse is seen as the biggest contributing factor that leads to disharmony within family and the cause of many offences to occur."
“Being therapeutic in nature emphasizing rehabilitation, the Alcohol and Drugs and Anger Management assist by looking at alternative ways to educate defendants to steer them away from crime and curb addictions of alcohol they battle with daily,” said Papali’i.
The C.E.O. told the Samoa Observer there was a need for more awareness on programmes such as “Protection Orders” that is available for victims.
He commends the work of the Pulega Mamalu a Alii & Faipule, the Village Councils and Church Ministers to assist in the growing predicament of family violence in our country.