Justice sector stakeholders from Antigua and Barbuda are currently taking part in a series of workshops aimed at improving the management of sexual assault cases and preparing justice sector actors for the establishment of the Sexual Offences Model Court. The workshops, which are being organised by the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project, will be held over a two-month period and began in Antigua on Wednesday July 4, 2018.
The first workshop was held at the Trade Winds Hotel from July 4-5, 2018 and was attended by the police, prosecutors from the Office of the DPP, staff from the High Court as well as representatives from Women Against Rape (WAR), the Directorate of Gender Affairs (DoGA) and Family and Social Services Division (FSSD). The session was intended to equip participants with the skills to deal with complainants sensitively and to effectively handle the secondary trauma, which might result from having to engage with the traumatic circumstances of a sexual assault.
Dr. Diane Douglas and Natalie O’Brady-McDowell of Douglas and Associates Ltd. facilitated this workshop. Dr. Douglas is a Doctor of Psychology specializing in Clinical and Community Psychology and the Director of Douglas and Associates Ltd. Mrs. O’Brady-McDowell is an experienced clinical therapist specializing in counselling adult and child survivors of trauma, survivors of sexual violence, family violence, and individuals diagnosed with depressive and other mental health disorders.
The workshops are being held in July and August before the establishment of the Sexual Offences Model Court in Antigua. The court is expected to be commissioned this September. The training sessions will be delivered to a cadre of professionals including magistrates, court personnel, police, prosecutors, medical professionals, and victim support personnel from the government and NGOs.
Mrs. Gloria Richards-Johnson, Director, JURIST Project said these trainings will ensure a coordinated, multi-sectoral approach to the provision of justice to sexual assault complainants and defendants.
She explained: “Even though the Model Court will primarily be about the court process, we recognise that the court cannot deliver timely and gender-responsive justice without sufficient coordination with the police, prosecutors, Probation department, medical doctors, Family and Social Services, Gender Affairs, and NGOs such as Women Against Rape.”
Mrs. Richards-Johnson added that the series of training workshops are designed to increase the competence of not only court staff but also the service providers who work with both complainants and defendants along the justice chain.
Topics to be covered in the upcoming workshops include increasing police officers’ competence in reporting and investigating sexual offences, assisting medical professionals with how to conduct examination of sexual assault complainants, and assisting prosecutors to effectively prosecute sexual assault cases.
The workshops continue with a training for police officers on July 13, 2018.