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More prosecutions


Government to tighten domestic violence law



In an effort to see more perpetrators of domestic violence brought to justice, cabinet is proposing that the decision on whether to pursue criminal proceedings should no longer lie solely in the hands of the victim.

Research has shown that criminal cases are being withdrawn in more than half of these cases - in some cantons, the rate of dropped cases is up to 90%.

In Switzerland, violent assault inflicted within a partnership became a criminal offence in 2004. Since then it has been possible for the authorities to prosecute abusers even without a complaint from the victim. But that change in the law has not led to more prosecutions, as most of those criminal proceedings were dropped.

“It remained a symbolic change,” the government wrote in a report published on Wednesday. Currently, when a victim withdraws his or her complaint, there is nothing the prosecutors can do, even in cases of repeated violence.

The government now wants to give the prosecuting authorities more discretion, allowing them to pursue criminal proceedings even when the victim does not submit a relevant application.

Further considerations

Apart from taking into account the wishes of the victim, the authorities can now consider other factors when making a decision on whether to drop a case, such as whether children are involved, how serious the assault was, and whether the perpetrator and the victim can reach a resolution between themselves. They will also weigh up the risk of a repeat assault.

“This change should improve the situation of the victim and relieve him or her from the burden [of deciding whether to pursue the criminal action],” the government said.

As part of the change, it will no longer to possible to suspend proceedings on the application of the victim when the accused has been previously convicted of violence in the relationship.

The criminal code has to be amended to make these changes. The government, which was originally asked by parliament to examine this issue, will submit its proposals to parliament as part of other planned changes to the criminal code. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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