With unanimous approval, members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives recently advanced An Act relative to domestic violence, new legislation aimed at preventing domestic violence (the "Act"). Said to be driven by the high profile case of Jared Remy, who is alleged to have brutally murdered his girlfriend only one day after he was released from custody on charges that he had assaulted her, the Act calls for increased training for law enforcement officers and court personnel, and the establishment of further legal remedies and protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Select provisions of the Act include (in summary):
- Requirements to establish and implement a training course for law enforcement officers in handling domestic violence and sexual violence complaints; and to develop guidelines for law enforcement response to domestic violence and sexual violence.
- Requirements for training for court personnel (including, without limitation, judges, district attorneys, clerks, probation officers and guardian ad litems) on the issues of domestic and sexual violence.
- The creation of a state and local (district) "domestic violence fatality review teams" whose purpose is to decrease the number of preventable domestic violence fatalities by developing an understanding of the causes, incidence and circumstances surrounding domestic violence fatalities through, for example, investigation, data collection, information sharing and reporting; and offering recommendations for changes in policies, practices and laws to prevent domestic violence.
- Additional confidentiality provided for victims, as reports of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence, as well as related communications between victims and police, shall be maintained by police and not made public (with exceptions for specific authorized persons.)
- The establishment of employment leave (up to 15 days in a 12-month) period if the employee, or family member of the employee, is a victim of abuse in order to seek or obtain medical treatment, address legal matters or attend to other related matters resulting from abuse.
- The creation of a Domestic Violence Prevention and Victim Assistance Fund, with funding to support practices to prevent domestic violence and to provide assistance victims of domestic violence in Massachusetts.
- The defining of new criminal charges for acts of strangulation and suffocation, which carry increased sentences and fines, and heightened sentences for acts of domestic violence against an elderly or disabled persons.
Click here to review the Act.
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