Department of Justice expands preventive role of prosecutors in domestic violence cases

Department of Justice expands preventive role of prosecutors in domestic violence cases

A new administrative order approved by the Secretary of Justice, Sunday Emanuelliwill expand the functions of prosecutors in the handling of cases of gender violence, by requiring them to play a more active role in the prevention and evaluation of the level of risk of the victims of these cases.

The new order – effective immediately – also includes another series of measures aimed at prevent femenicides and strengthen the prosecution of crimes of gender and sexual violence.

“My commitment is to provide prosecutors with innovative tools so that they can do their job optimally and do justice to victims by addressing their needs.” during all stages of the procedure and avoiding revictimization“, indicated the owner prior to signing Administrative Order 2023-08 during an activity held at the agency’s headquarters, in San Juan.

Among these tools is the “Prosecutor’s Manual for the Investigation and Litigation of Sexual Violence Cases,” an interactive work guide that seeks to standardize the way in which members of the Public Prosecutor’s Office investigate these types of cases.

The document addresses how to care for victims with functional diversity, how to work with victims in crisis, what is the forensic medical evaluation, the intervention of the prosecutor in hospital institutions, what is empathy and the process of referring survivors to Integrated Service Centers.

Regarding the preventive work of prosecutors, the new order replaces the risk assessment sheet used until now with a new procedure devised by the doctor Jacqueline Campbell and endorsed by the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. This piece, specifically, seeks to enable members of the Public Prosecutor’s Office to identify the level of risk – of losing their life – to which a victim is exposed at the hands of their aggressor.

The prosecutor will expand his role, since, in addition to being in charge of criminal prosecution, he will be able to work on the prevention aspect.. This instrument will help the victim to protect herself, and the prosecutor to make procedural decisions and, in some cases, even in determining the formulation of charges,” said the director of the Coordination Division of the Specialized Units for Domestic Violence, Sexual Crimes. and Child Abuse (DCUE), the prosecutor Laura Hernandez.

“In my experience, The victims know and can anticipate that they are going to be hit again, but never that they are going to be killedand that is the great challenge for us,” he added.

The director of the DCUE indicated that a group of 60 prosecutors from the agency have already been certified in the use and management of the death risk assessment, through collaboration with the Peace Coordinator for Women. The evaluation, she explained, consists of 20 questions directed to the victim to identify risk factors.

Once the questionnaire is completed, Hernandez added, the answers are integrated into a platform that allows the prosecutor to obtain a number that establishes the victim’s degree of lethality. “With this result, regardless of the facts that are under investigation, you will be able to know, with 90% certaintythe degree of lethality in which that victim is found,” said Hernandez.

“The role of the prosecutor will go beyond legal advice, guidance on a protection order. It is being able to tell the victim: ‘seek help, move, get out of there,’” Hernandez stressed.

To ensure, precisely, the training of prosecutors in the administration of these new tools, this Monday the Specialized Academy in Gender Violence and Sexual Crimes began. The Department of Justice has 350 prosecutors.

According to data from the Institute of Statistics, as of September 30, 55 femicides had been recorded on the island. Of these fatalities, 28% were committed by the victim’s partner or ex-partner, which is classified as an intimate feminicide. After that date, two more women were murdered by their partners.

In the United States, it is estimated that 51% of female homicide victims are murdered by their partner or ex-partner. In the case of men, this figure only reaches 8%, Hernandez pointed out.

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