A man, who was cleared of domestic violence charges, is fighting to change the gender-based violence law, which he believes is being abused and leading to innocent people, especially men, losing their homes and children.

“Not for a second am I saying all men are innocent. But there is an abuse of process here. I need to change this law,” says the 43-year-old father of two.

He recounts how his life was turned upside down on October 26, 2018, when his partner phoned the police and claimed he hit her after she slipped and hit her head on the kitchen table.

The incident set in motion a system that led him to lose his home and having restricted access to his two daughters who he describes as “my world”. It uncovered a series of faults with a system that allows children to be manipulated and innocent people to be stripped of everything.

“All a person with bad intentions has to do to get their partner arrested is lie during the DASH risk assessment... This risk assessment is ripping families apart. The foundations are wrong,” said the man who plans to take the matter to the Constitutional Court.

The DASH system – the Domestic Abuse, Stalking and Honour Risk Identification – was introduced with the enactment of the Gender-Based and the Domestic Violence Act in 2018.

Through the system, if a person files a report of domestic abuse, they are met with social workers who conduct a risk assessment to gauge the severity of the case. The risk assessment takes the form of questions.

If the score indicates that the person is at high risk, the police have six hours to request the duty magistrate to issue a temporary protection order.

DASH has been criticised by magistrates, prosecutors, defence lawyers and the police mainly because many cases are being ranked as “high risk”. The law is being reviewed but is taking way too long, the man feels.

Guilty until proven innocent

The man was arraigned the morning after his partner filed the report. In September 2019, Magistrate Claire Stafrace Zammit cleared him of injuring his partner, with whom he has two daughters now aged seven and nine, at their home.

The magistrate heard how on October 26, 2018, his partner called the police and claimed that the man slammed her into the kitchen table in front of their eldest daughter. The following morning, at 8am, police arrested him while he was preparing breakfast for his children.

The magistrate heard how the man denied injuring his partner and explained that that day she had been drinking wine with friends – as she often did.

All a person with bad intentions has to do to get their partner arrested is lie during the risk assessment

When they arrived home, she poured a small bottle of wine into a glass and drank it while he warmed his supper and ate it on the sofa with his daughter near him.

His partner said she was going to bed and, when he commented that it was early, she started shouting at him.

He lost his temper and threw the television remote control at the wall opposite him. She ran into the kitchen.

He said he walked after her to go wake up the children and head to the police station to report her excessive drinking, something he had warned her he would do.

His partner, whom he said was wearing socks with no shoes, slipped and hit her head on the kitchen table.

He said that when police arrived he asked them to check her alcohol levels and check for empty wine bottles, but was told “she didn’t look drunk”. The man later took a photo of the empty wine bottles in the bin cupboard.

He said that it later transpired he was not the first man she had accused of domestic violence.

The court also heard the daughter say her mother was holding a bottle of wine when the argument started. She said her father had grabbed her mother from the neck and slammed her into a chair.

The girl said she was on the sofa, near the kitchen, her back to the kitchen. She said she discussed the incident with her mother, social workers and a police constable and did not remember if her mother told her what to say.

After hearing the conflicting versions, the court noted that the woman’s version, and what she said during the risk assessment, was riddled with inconsistencies – first she said he grabbed her from the neck, then said it was the throat; first she said he threw the remote control at her face, then at the window. The man’s version was “more plausible”, the magistrate ruled as she cleared him of all charges.

Innocent… but still homeless

But even though he was cleared, the man remains out of his house and fighting to get more access to his daughters.

“Look what she managed to do with a three centimetre bump and a risk assessment. I had my passport, ID card, house and personal possessions taken away. I had to sign the bail book and could not leave Malta. I’ve been stuck in a box room at my parents’ house for a year and a half. I’ve had my life taken away from me for all this time,” he says.

“Before that night I didn’t know a damn thing about domestic violence but now I’m an expert because I’ve been put through the system. I’ve got other men coming to me. No one cares. This gender violence law is wrong. It’s so biased against men. This must change. Fast,” he says.

The man’s lawyer, Joseph Giglio, said abuses of the system were “not a rare exception, but they were not the rule”. He said the DASH process was completely biased in favour of the alleged victim as it just listened to their version and people were dragged to court if it turned out high risk.

But Inspector Sylvana Gafà from the police Victim Support Unit said abusing the system was “not that easy”. 

“If it results that the person was lying, they would face criminal charges in court... If the person feels that he was arrested with no legal basis, he can file a formal complaint to our Internal Affairs Unit.”

The man intends on ensuring his partner faces the consequences of lying.

Names are not being published to protect the children.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.