Around 135 domestic violence victims called Malta’s newly launched support helpline for legal advice, according to Justice and Equality Minister Edward Zammit Lewis.
Asked by PN Shadow Equality Minister Claudette Buttigieg, Zammit Lewis confirmed that an average of 22 domestic abuse victims per month made use of the 24/7 hotline called the Malta Legal Aid Agency.
Three lawyers man the service, which was launched this April. Callers are given an appointment with a lawyer, who can decide to pursue the case if there are grounds for the victim to initiate one against the perpetrator. The appointed-lawyer would represent them free of charge.
According to figures, three victims were assisted in the last week of April when the service launched. In May, 22 callers were registered, with 41 in June, 32 in July, 14 for the month of August while September saw 18 victims get legal aid.
And just one week into October, five victims reached out to the hotline.
Malta’s domestic violence rates are concerning, with reports constantly mounting since the beginning of the decade. Last year saw 1,325 reports of domestic abuse, roughly four cases every single day. Meanwhile, 2020 has already beaten that record by 15%.
And when you consider that roughly 85% of assaults fly under the police’s radar, we’re just looking at the tip of the iceberg.
Newly-appointed Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa’ has pledged to double down on the issue, introducing systematic reforms including a specialised unit to tackle gender-based violence.
A lack of specialised training and dedicated system to streamline such cases meant that some victims were not receiving the justice and attention they deserved.
The new unit, set to be inaugurated shortly, has been praised by feminist activists and groups like the Women’s Rights Foundation.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, you can get free legal aid by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, call on mobile: 7974 7974 (24 hours a day) or 2567 4330 (9am – 3:30pm, Monday to Friday).
What do you think of the new victim hotline?