Wed | Aug 4, 2021

Woman trapped in ex’s hell despite restraining order

Published:Sunday | April 18, 2021 | 12:20 AMLivern Barrett - Senior Staff Reporter

Margaret Alexander* was getting ready to leave work earlier this month when she noticed that her ex-boyfriend had entered the small gaming lounge she managed.

The certified locksmith, she claimed, had been stalking her for months, either trailing her home or showing up and letting himself inside her St Andrew home.

She recited the numerous times she has had to either leave her vehicle at a friend’s house or hide under a table at work “just so him don’t know where I am”.

“Sometimes me don’t even sleep a me house.”

Alexander recounted that at least twice her ex-boyfriend was warned by the police, in her presence, that he would be arrested and charged if he continued, one of them coming after she went to the police station to report a physical altercation between them.

But the warnings did little to dissuade him, she claimed.

“I’m guessing he (the police officer) did it to put some fear in the person so him would leave me alone … . You know people hear ‘bout restraining order, dem no wah go a jail so them kinda leave you alone,” she said during an interview with The Sunday Gleaner last Friday.

“Even after the warning from the police, him still show up a me work, still a follow me round.”

VIOLENT TURN

When he showed up at her workplace earlier this month, things took a violent turn.

“He tried to hug me and I just shove him in his chest and he just laughed,” she recounted.

A customer at the gaming lounge escorted him outside and she moved to an inside office, thinking that was the end of it.

But according to Alexander, he managed to quietly slip into the office and closed the door behind him.

“I was slapped across the face,” she said, setting off a fierce struggle with papers flying all over.

“We started fighting. There was a Dragon bottle right there and I used it to hit him in the head. The Dragon bottle apparently burst his head and he started bleeding all over the place.”

She reported the incident to the police, and her ex, she said, was warned a third time.

In addition, she said the police suggested that she go to the Family Court in downtown Kingston and apply for a protection order, widely referred to as a restraining order.

Amid a recent spate of violent attacks against women, the Court Administration Division (CAD) has revealed that a total of 523 applications for protection orders have been filed in the Corporate Area (243), Hanover (67), St James (128) and Westmoreland (101) family courts since the start of the year.

No data was available for the other parish courts in Falmouth and Chapelton.

CAD did not disclose how many orders have been issued by the courts since January 1 this year, but said a majority of the applications involved complaints by a spouse.

A total of 1,824 applications for protection were filed last year in the four family courts for which data is available, with just over 82 per cent based on a complaint against a spouse, according to CAD.

Ninety-four protection orders were issued by the Corporate Area, Hanover, St James and Westmoreland family courts last year as 53 per cent of the applications were struck out and 24 per cent withdrawn.

Alexander said she went to the Family Court the next day and applied for a protection order.

To her surprise, she said, she was told she would receive a summons to serve on her ex-boyfriend for him to attend court.

Further, the gaming lounge manager said she was told that for a fee, which she could not recall, the summons could be served by a court-appointed bailiff if she knew the exact address of her ex.

“If you don’t know the exact address, what they said is that you have to physically pick it up in two weeks and then you can have a police officer serve it for you. The officer accompanies you and he serves it on the person. That’s what I did,” she recounted.

“I don’t know if the circumstances seemed more threatening they’d do it in a faster time. Maybe it’s a determination they make based on the report you give how dire the situation is.”

CAD said it could not comment on Alexander’s case.

However, Kadiesh Fletcher, acting manager for client services, communication and information at CAD, indicated that as part of the process for obtaining a protection order, victims should visit the family court or the nearest parish court office and indicate that they are a victim of domestic violence.

The individual, she said, would be directed to first speak to an intake counsellor “to complete the intake form”.

If the matter is considered urgent based on the circumstances outlined by the victim and if court is still in session, Fletcher said, the individual is placed before a judge and the case dealt with immediately as an ex parte hearing, meaning without the alleged offender present.

INTERIM PROTECTION ORDER

“The court issues an interim protection order which is usually for the period before the next court date when the respondent is to be present. The interim protection order is issued immediately for service by the district constable or the court bailiff,” Fletcher explained.

“If the matter is deemed not to be urgent based on the circumstances outlined by the complainant, a court date is identified and a summons is prepared to be served on the respondent. The court date is usually set within one to two weeks.”

Fletcher explained that when a protection order or summons is issued, the court “generally instructs” the complainant to take it to the nearest police station and “request that an officer serve same”.

“This is to eliminate the delay which may occur between when the order is issued and when the police collect processes for service from the court’s office.”

Alexander said that in her case, the summons served on her ex-boyfriend has done nothing to end her ordeal.

“Even after he was served the summons, him still...” she said, breaking into a nervous smile.

*Name changed.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com