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Call to take tough stand on violence

Monday January 07, 2019 Written by Published in Crime

Cook Islands Women’s Counselling Centre, Punanga Tauturu Inc is calling on the High Court to take a stronger stance on cases involving charges of assault on a female.


The non-government organisation is concerned that the court system may be showing leniency toward alleged offenders in domestic violence cases.

Last Thursday the High Court dismissed a case against Benerio Oti, who had been charged with assaulting a female. It was submitted to the court that Oti may lose his employment with the Australian Defence Force and that the complainant, a police officer, was willing to continue her relationship with the defendant. Police prosecution did not oppose the application by defence counsel Mark Short to discharge Oti without conviction.

PTI manager Rebeka Buchanan said in her view the case only highlighted that the court system is not taking allegations of violence against women seriously.

“We have heard this before, when the perpetrator has a high ranking job or a leadership role - the court system seems to be more lenient towards them, and seeks not to punish them,” Buchanan said.

“The way I see it, the court could make a real difference - instead of dismissing cases, it should look at what other options there are, and that’s something that has been done before.”

Buchanan said all reported cases of violence against women needed to be treated as serious offences.

She said such matters were not only advocated by PTI, but also government, police and other groups fighting for human rights, women’s access to justice, and to end domestic violence. 

Buchanan says Oti’s acquittal strongly suggests that the justice system failed the complainant.

“He pleaded guilty. My question would be: who made the decision that he should not be convicted on the charge he stood accused of?

“And the end result is they can’t do anything because of his position? Members of the police and defence forces know they have a code of ethics and they are there to uphold laws.

“The decision made by the court sets a new trend – not to punish the person responsible for their action, that’s what the justices of the peace are doing by not taking it further under the law.

“They seem to be lenient in such decisions. It’s about decision making by the court. It’s not the first time such decisions have been made.”

Buchanan says the dismissal of the case raised serious questions about attitudes towards violence against women and women’s access to justice.

“What is the impact when this happens again? Is this what justice is really about?

“Again, why would a woman go further, when she knows charges can be dismissed? Domestic violence is a serious social issue that will continue if we do not all play our part to stop it.”

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