A lawyer has described how she spent almost 20 minutes waiting on a call to the legal office of the police's Domestic Violence Prosecution Unit to try to file a protection order for a client.
Marita Pace Dimech shared a screenshot of her call with the Prosecution Office at the Domestic Violence Prosecution Unit. The number is not the number used by victims to report a crime.
“This is the precarious situation domestic violence victims face every day,” she wrote on Facebook on Monday.
“As soon as you manage to speak to someone, they will refer you to another person, and back and forth. The operator will tell you to try another time, but trying another time could be too late.”
The Prosecutions Unit assumes various functions connected with legal matters.
Speaking to Times of Malta, Pace Dimech explained that she has been trying to reach out to the Prosecution Office since January 22 to file a protection order for her client.
Pace Dimech said she requested a protection order prior to the hearing of such a case, as she believes the hearing could take place in 2025.
When she previously tried to call the office, the line would be engaged or she would have to wait for operators to transfer her call to another office.
“I reached out to the Prosecution Office to know the date of the First court hearing for my client, so that I can request a protection order, but every time I tried to call, the line would be engaged, or else the operator would tell me to try again later,” she said.
On Monday, Pace Dimech said she spent over 20 minutes on the line and tried to call the number another three times before getting through to an operator.
"I took to social media to post about the situation so people understand the reality victims face and that while there have been improvements, there is still a lot more work to be done."
A police spokesperson confirmed that the telephone line for the DV Prosecution Office is facing "technical issues" but that all other helplines are operating.
"If a victim wants to make a report, they can still do so, as all the other lines are operating," he said.
"Kindly note that the Emergency numbers dedicated to the victims of domestic violence are 22942777 and 22942717."
Helplines such as emergency lines 112, and 119 are still operating.
Victims can also contact the Police Gender-Based Domestic Violence unit at 27172777 and Aġenzija Apoġġ at 22959000.
Detailed information, including contact details for the Police Gender-Based and Domestic Violence Unit, can be found in the 'Handbook for Victims Abuse' found in police officers, the newly launched DV hub in Santa Luċija, and from the Gender-Based and Domestic Violence Unit of the Police headquarters in Floriana.
Pace Dimech was the lawyer of femicide victim Bernice Cassar, who was shot dead on her way to work in November 2022.
Her estranged husband Roderick Cassar has been charged with the femicide and is pleading not guilty.
She was awaiting a court hearing at the time of her murder and had filed multiple police reports against her ex-husband. Days before she was killed, Pace Dimech pleaded with the police to take action against her ex-husband for breaching a protection order.
An inquiry into the murder concluded the state ‘system’ failed the 40-year-old mother-of-two, particularly because of a lack of resources and a heavy caseload.