A new police unit to handle domestic violence and gender-based crime was inaugurated on Monday.

The setting up of the unit means such cases will no longer be investigated by district police but handled by a team of professionals who have been given specialised training, Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa said.

The unit was inaugurated by Gafa together with Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri and the prime minister’s wife Lydia Abela.

The commissioner said that since assuming his role, he had made the handling of domestic violence one of his priorities. 

The police receive some five reports of domestic violence daily.

The 25 officers deployed to the new units are helping 300 victims, 90 of whom are men. 

“Last September when we renewed the mission statement to take into account the current context of policing, we pledged a professional and trusted policing service to ensure safety and security in partnership with the community,” Gafa said. 

“When it comes to tackling domestic violence I feel we have implemented this to a tee.”

He observed that more victims were coming forward to report cases, in what was seen as testament that the public felt more secure in going to the police. 

Camilleri said domestic violence was a scar on society which must not be fought only by the police but everybody who came across it. 

“This crime cannot be justified and no one has the right to inflict violence on anybody, be it their partner or any member of the family,” he said. 

He added that all members of the police corps were receiving training on how to receive victims of domestic violence and that other initiatives had been carried out to bring officer’s training up to date, such as a virtual reality simulator. 

“We want to continue fighting the stigma that surrounds reporting the perpetrators of violence. It is not the victims who should feel ashamed but those who commit the violence.”

Lydia Abela said that in her profession as a lawyer, she had met many women seeking to flee abusive relationships. She praised the initiative to set up the unit in an effort to encourage more people to report such crimes.  

She was confident that the unit would provide much-needed support to victims because they would find someone to listen to them and help them and their children get out of that situation. 

“Society rarely talks about these issues, but it is important that everyone who can, takes steps to work against domestic violence,” she said. 

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