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Monitoring multiple aspects of laws

Include general statistics on use of law

  • Statistics on the frequency of acts of violence against women should be obtained from relevant government ministries, law enforcement, the judiciary, health professionals, and non-governmental organizations which serve survivors of violence against women. Monitors should note whether or not such data is publicly available and easily accessed. Statistics should also be gathered on the causes and consequences of the acts of violence against women.  This includes data on re-offenses and whether or not such offenses involve the same or a different victim. See: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs and Division for the Advancement of Women, Handbook on Legislation on Violence against Women (2010), 3.3.2; Ertürk, Yakin, Indicators on violence against women and state response (2008), p.19.

Monitoring government expenditures

  • Monitors can gain insight into governmental priorities by analyzing government expenditures on implementation of laws, policies and programmes on violence against women and girls.
  • Monitors should examine the utilization of funds allocated specifically for gender-based violence and determine the existence and allocation of funds for prosecution and prevention of gender-based violence.

Monitoring police records
Monitors should determine the numbers of cases of violence against women and girls that are reported to law enforcement officials. In some states, statistics on these issues will be readily available in administrative offices or national statistics offices; in others, monitors will need to pose strategic questions to government officials in law enforcement administration. This may involve a multi-step process of formal interview requests but it can be well worthwhile. In the Third Monitoring & Evaluation Report 2009 on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 by the Lawyers Collective Women's Rights Initiative in India, monitors found that the process of approaching government officials was very time-consuming because they had to obtain necessary permissions. p.19

Monitors should become familiar with police coding practices in order to ascertain that some crimes have not been coded inappropriately, resulting in a lack of access to justice for certain groups such as victims who were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. See: Human Rights Watch, Improving Police Response to Sexual Assault (2013).

Example: Third-Party Monitoring Improves Police Investigations

In response to a long-standing practice of misclassifying rape cases as “unfounded” or in non-crime codes, police in Philadelphia instituted regular review of sexual assault cases by advocacy groups. The review was later expanded to cover third-party reporting of child abuse, cases categorized as non-offense pending investigation, and 100 open cases selected at random. The advocacy groups meet each year to review up to 400 case files. They determine if forensic test results were requested and obtained, if all relevant witnesses were interviewed, and if victims were treated with respect. They also review whether the decision that a crime had been committed was consistent with evidence. If the groups have questions about a file, they raise them with detectives and cases may be re-opened after review.

Although police investigators were initially reluctant to have outside review, the process has been recognized as successful. It has resulted in better investigations of sexual assault crimes and fewer cases dropped without investigation. The advocates themselves are more familiar with police protocols and are better able to explain them to victims. Human Rights Watch, Improving Police Response to Sexual Assault (2013).

 

 

Monitoring court records
Monitors should review court records on relevant cases of violence against women and girls. Monitors should review the number of cases of violence against women and girls, the type of cases, whether or not perpetrators are charged, if they go to trial, whether there is a conviction, what sanctions are imposed, and the level of repeat offenders. If there is no central depository of data on court records, monitors should prepare for a lengthy procedure of requesting and obtaining court records. Monitors may have to travel to different locations around the country to view records.

Example: A monitoring study of one year of court decisions on orders for protection and emergency orders for protection in the Judicial District of Tirana, Albania, was conducted in 2009-2010. The monitors monitored court decisions and the practices of advocates who offered free legal assistance for victims of domestic violence. The monitors noted an increase in applications to the court for orders for protection over previous years and also drew conclusions on the court’s implementation of the domestic violence law, such as the speed at which the judgment was made. The monitors also utilized the services of six volunteers who, after receiving training from the monitors, went through volumes of data from court decisions and completed data forms prepared by the monitors, who were then able to compare them directly to the same forms used in the previous year. However, the monitors also added new data based on information gleaned from the previous year. Both types of information aided in formulating conclusions and recommendations. Centre for Legal Civic Initiatives and Civil Rights Defenders, Implementation of the Law “On Measures against Violence in Family Relations” (2010). Available in English.

 

Case study: How to review court records for a study which monitors the implementation of a domestic violence law

  1. If a law on domestic violence exists and civil remedies pertain, review civil court files and family court files to determine the number of cases which involve allegations of domestic violence.
  1. After reviewing the number of files generally, choose a reasonable time period for file review, e.g. one year, two years.
  2. Determine the total number of cases and the number of cases that involve allegations of domestic violence.
  1. Describe facts.
  2. Describe how court dealt with abuse.
  3. If a family law case, did the abuse have any impact on the outcome of the case?
  4. Review documents in file including certificates from the forensic hospital. Compare the description of the injuries in the file to the medical certificate. Compare the general description of the injury to the grade or level of assault assigned by the forensic doctor.
2. Review criminal court files to determine the number of cases that involve prosecution of domestic violence crimes. Choose a reasonable time period to review.
  1. Compare to the total number of criminal cases and to total number of assaults.  Look for other interesting comparisons.
  2. Describe cases in detail, including the facts, how the police handled the case, the resolution of the case and the punishment.
  3. Review documents in file including certificates from the forensic hospital.  Compare the description of the injuries in the file to the medical certificate. Compare the general description of the injury to the grade or level of assault assigned by the forensic doctor.

 

Example: Monitoring the Implementation of a Law Using Court Records

In 2005, the state of Minnesota, USA, enacted legislation making strangulation of a family or household member a felony offense.  Since its passage, WATCH, a court monitoring organization in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has monitored the legislation’s effectiveness by studying all cases charged under the statute in Hennepin County, Minnesota, between August 1, 2007 and July 31, 2008. 

The WATCH report, entitled “The Impact of Minnesota’s Felony Strangulation Law” (May, 2009) documented the initial charges, case disposition, victim/defendant relationship, strangulation method used, contents of criminal complaint, length of sentence, consequences of probation violations, city of incident, and criminal justice personnel involved for each case.  The organization attended more than sixty court hearings on domestic strangulation cases during the time period. 

Based on this information, WATCH concluded that “the law continues to have a positive impact on victim safety and offender accountability.” Conviction rates for cases involving strangulation increased slightly over a previously studied time period, and convictions in cases charged solely under the strangulation statute actually decreased. 

 The monitoring report also found a significant increase in felony convictions secured for offenses other than strangulation, suggesting that the felony strangulation statute was being used as leverage, particularly in cases where the victim was unwilling or unable to testify.  The report also concluded that some improvement was needed with regard to law enforcement officials using appropriate and detailed language in police reports to secure felony strangulation convictions. This particular finding from the monitoring report created a concrete opportunity for police training and/or advocacy within the police.

Amnesty International published a report in 2010 which monitored the implementation of Albania’s domestic violence law by studying, among other factors, court records on orders for protection in Tirana, Albania, for the past several years. The report, Ending Domestic Violence in Albania: The Next Steps, found that although hundreds of women have applied for orders for protection since 2007, most of these women later withdrew their petitions or failed to attend court hearings. Through examination of court records, the monitors noted facts about “typical” petitioners and the orders which were actually issued. The report also provided a number of recommendations to the Albanian government, including providing free legal assistance to domestic violence victims and continuing training for judicial and law enforcement officials to ensure effective enforcement of orders for protection.