DPP has powers, says Pryde

ONCE a domestic violence-related complaint is made to the police and a charge filed in court, only the Director of Public Prosecutions has the power to withdraw charges.

When those charges are laid, the complainant needs to come to court and give evidence, says DPP Christopher Pryde.

Responding to a report in this newspaper about some women withdrawing charges against their husbands in domestic violence-related cases, Mr Pryde says charges are only laid against a person if there is a reasonable prospect of a conviction in court.

“In particular, all cases of rape are reviewed by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and women can be assured that if they make a complaint of sexual assault against anyone, including a husband, their complaint will be taken seriously and they will be supported in their decision,” he said.

He said victims of domestic violence needed to remember there were procedures under Fijian laws such as the Criminal Procedure Decree and the Domestic Violence Decree that could be applied to protect them.

“These procedures include measures such as restraining orders against the accused and name suppression in court. The State is also able to assist victims in terms of witness allowances and referrals to counsellors.

“Offences such as rape are not reconcilable offences, which means that forgiving an accused and then wanting to withdraw the charge is not an option.

“Rape is an extremely serious charge and it would be only in exceptional circumstances that we would allow a charge of rape to be withdrawn once it is before the courts.”

At the moment, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is working on a brochure that will raise awareness of victims’ rights and their roles and responsibilities in the criminal justice system.