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The Domestic Violence Protection Act: Changed for the Better

The government adopts a bill in the justice sector in favour of victims of domestic violence

On July 13th, the government passed two key justice sector bills proposed by the Ministry of Justice, one of which is changes to the Protection from Domestic Violence Act. As the Minister of Justice from "Democratic Bulgaria" Nadezhda Yordanova says, the draft law is part of the coalition agreement, and the beginning of its preparation was supported by many non-governmental organizations. In order to achieve a full guarantee of the rights of the victims, the draft law explicitly states that "the measures under the law do not exclude the civil, administrative-criminal and criminal liability of the perpetrator".

The legislative changes consist of:

  • Facilitation of access to justice, by providing, within 24 hours, for the state, municipal bodies, medical institutions, and legal entities to forward a request, at the request of the victim, to initiate proceedings for the issuance of a protection order to the relevant regional court. It is envisaged that this will be any district court at the permanent or current address, the district court where the violence was committed or another address where the victim resides, and not, as before, only the district court at the victim's place of residence.

  • Expanding the range of victims of domestic violence who can seek protection, adding to the perpetrators: persons entrusted with the care of the child or to whom the child is entrusted; relatives by law or by a collateral line up to the fourth degree, the person who is or was in de facto conjugal cohabitation; spouse or former spouse of the parent.

  • Increasing protection measures, among which are: banning the perpetrator from making contact with the victim in any form; prohibition to issuing a permit for acquisition, storage, carrying and use of explosives, weapons, ammunition and pyrotechnic articles or termination of the validity of an issued permit for a period determined by the court; obliging the perpetrator to attend specialised programs to overcome aggression and deal with anger; referring injured persons to specialised services for protection, assistance and support or recovery programs, etc.

  • Abolition of the administrative penalty "fine" for the perpetrator when protective measures are imposed, since "punishing the perpetrator by administrative criminal procedure prevents the possibility of criminal liability being committed against him for the same act".

  • Entry of domestic violence cases into a national register, to which the Ministry of the Interior, ASP, the Agency for the Quality of Social Services, the SACP, and the judicial authorities will have access.

  • The state policy on prevention and protection from domestic violence will be implemented by a National Council, as a permanent collective body.

  • Specialized services will be provided free of charge to victims of domestic violence, examples of which are a national helpline for victims of domestic violence or at risk, sheltered housing, etc.

The project also foresees the creation of a National Council for the implementation of the state policy on prevention and protection from domestic violence. It is also proposed to create a national information system and a national register for cases of domestic violence carried out on the territory of the country or in relation to Bulgarian citizens abroad who have sought help and support. The Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Social Assistance Agency, the Agency for the Quality of Social Services, the State Agency for Child Protection and the judicial authorities will have access to the data in the system.

According to Minister Yordanova, the legal changes will change the situation of victims of domestic violence. She says,

"Victims of violence will receive faster, better protection and control over the implementation of protection measures will be better. In addition to the ban on physical contact by the abuser with the victim, we envisage the possibility of banning all types of contact over the phone, the internet, or any kind of communication. We also envisage committing the abuser through programs to go through anger management and dealing with aggression. This is to reduce recidivism. A ban on carrying a firearm, prohibition to issue a permit to carry such, suspension of the permit for a weapon, prohibition of ammunition and pyrotechnics."
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