Demonstrating Against Gender-Based Violence, Not Against Our Judges - Personal Statement By Marlene Hassan Nahon

By Marlene Hassan Nahon

Today I will be taking part in the demonstration demanding Justice for Carolina Lishman,

In this march, I will be joined by people of different walks of life, with varying political affiliations, and with disparate motivations. At a time of growing disinformation and heightened political polarisation, it is more important than ever that all public representatives act responsibly, so I will be explaining the reasons for my attendance.

Firstly, this is not a show of support for a (figurative) public lynching of our judges. I do not want my presence to be misinterpreted as a populist attempt to echo the public’s outrage or, worse still, further undermine public faith in the judiciary.

As we (TG) said on our statement of the 25th of October, judges do not make our laws, they simply give effect to them. If we are angry that a sentence is too lenient, that is not the fault of the judge that hands down the sentence but of the government that has not revised sentencing laws. If we are upset that our laws do not do enough to protect our women from violent crime, that is not down to the judiciary but to the executive. If there have been procedural problems at any point, we should expect the checks in our system to be able to address them.

That said, we eagerly await the results of the complaint filed by Mrs Lishman’s family with the Admissions and Disciplinary Committee, and I would like to reiterate our belief that disclosing the Attorney General’s reasoning for supporting the actions of the DPP in this matter are necessary and (now) overdue.

 For me, the most important thing we can do now to honour the memory of Carolina Lishman, is to ensure these types of crimes never happen again. Unfortunately, we are not doing too well in this respect. According to the Royal Gibraltar Police, reports of domestic abuse in 2020 went up by 26%. This is a worrying stat, but it is even more worrying when you consider the fact that these crimes mostly go unreported. According to the Crime Survey of England and Wales data for the year ending March 2018, only 18% of women who had experienced partner abuse in the 12 months prior to the study reported the abuse to the police.

I dare say that in Gibraltar, with the (lack of) anonymity issues we have, stats on domestic abuse reporting are probably even lower than elsewhere.

Government has taken some steps to address this, but it needs to do more. In November 2020, a command paper was published for a Bill for an act specifically dedicated to offences relating to domestic abuse. This Bill, which expanded the definition of domestic abuse to include violence, threats or coercive or controlling behaviour, and made offences punishable by up to 14 years' imprisonment, mirrored the legislation passed on the 3 March 2020 in the UK Parliament.

Unfortunately, and although the consultation period was supposed to last only six weeks, this Bill is yet to be brought into effect. Also, the efforts to raise awareness for this issue have been insufficient, and there is a burning need for a high-profile campaign properly addressing the problem, focusing on the particularities of our small and insular society, and presenting safe pathways for women to report problems of domestic abuse without fear of reprisals or judgement.

Today I will be marching for Justice for Carolina Lishman, something that will not be delivered until our women are adequately protected by our legal system and authorities.

If you are in immediate or imminent danger from domestic abuse, please inform the police on 199. You can also call the RGP on 200 72500 or the Care Agency on 200 78528.