Domestic violence has become a prominent topic of discussion in today’s society with reports increasing year after year and doubling in the last 10 years to a total of 1745 reports in 2021.
Throughout the years however the definition of domestic violence has changed since its introduction in 2005 and today has widened its scope in order to offer greater protection to victims.
Domestic Violence under Chapter 581 of the Laws of Malta
The Domestic Violence Act introduced in 2018 includes all acts and omissions, be it verbal, physical, sexual, psychological/economic, causing physical and/or moral harm occuring within the family of domestic unit.
This Act made operative various parts of the Istanbul Convention which consequently strengthened the punishments and legal penalties against abusers and/or perpetrators.
The victims of such abuse may now seek a protection order once proceedings have been instituted as well as a restraining order following judgement.
The Criminal Code (Chapter 9) of the Laws of Malta also provides and grants the Criminal Court with the power to issue protection and treatment orders.
Whilst our laws have indeed widened the scope and definition of domestic violence, the abuse may not always result in a case of domestic violence. Therefore, the law has further provided for other forms of violence, that of harassment and stalking.
Harassment under Chapter 9 of the Laws of Malta
The Laws of Malta provides for situations of harassment. According to Maltese law, harassment exists where a a person:
- pursues a course of conduct which amounts to harrasment of another person;
- knows or ought to know that this amounts to harrasment;
- subjects another person to an act of physical intimacy;
- requests sexual favours from another person or
- subjects another person to any act and or conduct with sexual connotations including spoken words, gestures and, or the production, display or circulation of any written words, pictures, and, or any other material, where such act, words, and, or conduct is unwelcome to the victim, and could be reasonably be regarded as offensive, humiliating, degrading, and, or intimidating towards that person shall be guilty of an offence.
A person guilty of the offence of harrasment under article 251A shall be liable to the punishment of imprisonment for a term from six months to two years or to a fine (multa) of not less than five thousand euro (€ 5,000.00) and not more than ten thousand euro(€10,000), or to both such fine and imprisonment.
Stalking under Chapter 9 of the Laws of Malta
Maltese law provided for further protection in 2014 by means of a specific provision, article 251AA, which essentially offered more protection to the victim and has allowed for the Executive Police to charge and prosecute such perpetrators in a more effective manner.
The legislator by means of this article of Chapter 9 of the Laws of Malta provides an exhaustive list of actions which may amount to stalking:
(3) The following acts shall be deemed to be acts of stalking:
(a) following a person;
(b) contacting, or attempting to contact, a person by any means;
(c) publishing, by any means, any statement or other material –
(i) relating or purporting to relate to a person, or
(ii) purporting to originate from a person,
(d) monitoring the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication,
(e) loitering in any place, whether public or private,
(f) interfering with any property in the possession of a person,
(g) watching or spying on a person
A person guilty of the offence of harrasment under article 251AA shall be liable to the punishment of imprisonment for a term from one to two years or to a fine (multa) not exceeding ten thousand euro(€ 10,000.00), or to both such fine and imprisonment.
Moreover, if such offence is committed against any one of the accused’s parents or legitamite ascendants, descendants, brother or sister, spouse, as well as former spouse, cohabitant, a person having a child in common, any other person living in the same household as the offender, another person who is or was in a relationship with the offender, any public officer, a private guard or on any witness or referee who shall have given evidence in any suit, the perpetrator shall be liable to imprisonment up to 3 years.