Wife beaters banished under new domestic violence law

So far this year, two men who abused their girlfriends or wives have been temporarily barred from their homes by police. That's a consequence of a law which took effect on January first, giving police broader powers to intervene in cases of domestic violence.

So far in 2007, two men have been made to quit their homes after beating their wives or girlfriends.

In the case of a 30 year old man from the Chomutov region, police say the abuser became drunken and belligerent in the early hours of January 1st. After the couple returned to their home from a New Year's celebration, the man began destroying furniture and threatening to kill his girlfriend. Fearing for her life, she left the flat and ran into the hallway. Concerned neighbors called law enforcement, and the police expelled the man from the apartment. He won't be allowed back for a period of ten days.

"It was very early in the morning when the law was applied for the first time, and I'm very happy the police are taking it seriously and trying to apply this law."

Branislava Vargova is a psychologist working at ROSA, a support service organization for female victims of domestic violence. She says that in the ten days during which the perpetrator is expelled from the dwelling, the victim should get support from her nearest regional intervention center. Under the new law, each of the Czech Republic's thirteen regions will have one such office.

In the case of the woman near Chomutov, the intervention center in Usti nad Labem reported that it did contact the victim and offered help. She declined, saying that she had made the decision, with her children, to let the man who beat her back into their home.

That won't happen in every case, says Branislava Vargova.

"The victim during those ten days can ask the court to file a proposal for prolonging the period of expulsion, so this period of ten days can be prolonged by court maximally up to one year"

This law, which is based on a similar measure in Austria, gives wide discretion to the police, making them, and not the courts, a victim's first resource. Vargova believes the law can and will be applied fairly.

"it's not sufficient just to call police. According to the law the expulsion of the perpetrator should be done if there is ongoing or long term violence, and also the life or psychology of victim should be endangered by a threat or something. So it's very much the decision of police or policeman who will be on the place - if they know it has been going on a long time, it's not the first case and the perpetrator is dangerous."