Cases of domestic violence will soon be handled by a specialised unit being set up within the police force which will also tackle reports of gender-based violence.

This was announced on Monday by Police Commissioner Angelo Gafa' at a news conference marking the introduction of a domestic violence virtual reality simulator at the Ta’ Kandja academy, limits of Siġġiewi.

This equipment aims to raise awareness within the force and help officers empathise with victims of domestic violence, which is the third most common form of crime reported in Malta.

Last year, a total of 1,326 cases were reported, while the first half of 2020 saw an increase of 15 per cent when compared to the previous year, with the figure of reports filed between January and June being that of 618.

Gafa' noted that unlike other forms of criminal activity, this kind of abuse is difficult to prevent as it is perpetrated behind closed doors in the privacy of one’s home.

The simulator offers a virtual perspective of a seven-year-old who regularly witnesses her parents quarrel over minor issues. The quarrels escalate until one of the parties resorts to physical abuse, causing injury.

Apart from police officers, this simulator will also be made available to probationary services in order to raise awareness among the perpetrators themselves on the repercussions of domestic violence.

The police commissioner announced that such cases will soon be handled by a specialised section which will be called the gender-based and domestic violence unit.

An internal call for officers interested to join this section was launched in recent weeks. The new unit will be referred reports filed at police stations for further investigation.

Home Affairs Minister Byron Camilleri warned that cases of officers who downplayed cases of domestic violence or showed lack of empathy would be tackled very seriously.

He also called on victims to come forward to seek help by approaching the police or one of the various NGOs who offer support.

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