A group of human rights NGOs have condemned a magistrate’s decision to not severely punish a man who had fired shots through his partner’s window during a violent argument in Xghajra.
Sean Anthony McGahren had originally been hit with eight charges but six of them were withdrawn after his partner declared in open court that she was withdrawing her criminal complaint against him. As a result of this, magistrate Gabriella Vella decided to only punish the accused for the remaining two charges – both firearm related – and slap him with a €700 fine as well as €1,128 in court expert expenses.
However, nine human rights NGOs – including the Women’s Rights Foundation, Victim Support Malta, aditus and The Good Shepherd Sisters – warned that Vella’s decision sends a message that domestic violence abusers can get away with almost anything.
They also questioned why the police dropped domestic violence charges upon the victim’s request, noting that the Istanbul Convention – which has been transposed into Maltese law – allows prosecutions to continue even if the alleged victim changes her mind. The logic is that this safeguards domestic violence victims, who can feel threatened by their abusers drop the charges.
“It is 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,” the NGOs said. “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.”