Take five: “Electronic surveillance ensures maximum safety for the victim”
Ana Pachuashvili is the Head of the Human Rights Protection Division at the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia. With the support of UN Women and the European Union, important steps have been taken to improve the legal mechanisms protecting women and victims of domestic violence. In particular, the risk assessment tool and the standard of issuing the electronic surveillance were updated in May 2023 to become more victim oriented. Ana Pachuashvili actively participated in this process.
What is the risk assessment tool and electronic surveillance system?
The risk assessment tool is a structured questionnaire used by authorized police officers to assess the risk of repeated violence in reported cases of violence against women and/or domestic violence. These questions help officers obtain the most information on the occurrence of violence and the persons involved in it, reveal what risk the specific victim faces and determine whether or not there is a likelihood of reoccurrence by the abuser. This tool gives the police the ability to make the right decision and to take effective measures in order to prevent repeated acts of violence.
If the identified risks indicate a credible threat of violence, the police will be given the option to offer electronic surveillance to the victim, carried out solely for the maximum 30-day duration of the order.
Electronic surveillance ensures maximum safety for the victim through electronic means—specifically an ankle bracelet for the violator, and the monitor for victim and the perpetrator. These devices are similar to mobile phones. Thanks to electronic surveillance, the attacker’s proximity to the victim is monitored in real time. If the victim gives consent to use electronic surveillance, the police will submit the request to the court for approval.
How does the electronic surveillance process work?
When implementing electronic surveillance, and taking into account the victim’s requests, certain locations are identified in advance as exclusion zones under the terms of a restraining order, such as the victim’s house, workplace or any other frequented place. In these areas, the violator is prohibited from approaching the victim within the prescribed radii: a 100-metre danger zone and a 500-metre buffer zone. These distances are automatically determined by the receiving devices that both the victim and the violator have, and as soon as the permissible distance is violated, a signal is immediately transmitted to the 112 Monitoring Centre.
If the perpetrator enters any predefined exclusion zone and does not comply with an authorized person’s request to leave the danger zone or buffer zone, and/or evades electronic surveillance, his actions will be regarded as grounds for criminal liability.
It is important that the devices sound an alarm not only to 112 but also to the victim and the violator. The police, in all situations, are connected to both the perpetrator and the victim and take immediate measures to ensure the safety of the victim.
What is the role of the victim in the effective operation of the electronic surveillance process?
The victim’s consent is essential when using electronic surveillance because without it, the police cannot use this mechanism, a very effective system for protecting victims.
Unfortunately, there have been cases in which violators have broken the terms of their restraining order, and the victim or other persons have not informed law enforcement officers that the violator has established communication, such as going to the victim’s house. Electronic surveillance safeguards against such cases. Victims no longer have to contact the police; the 112 Monitoring Centre is already monitoring offenders’ compliance with the terms of their restraining order.
How does the updated risk assessment tool and electronic surveillance standard effect the safety of victims?
As a result of changes carried out with the support of UN Women, the specific questions in the risk assessment tool are now more comprehensive and better tailored to the victim, which allows the police to better identify the risk of violence. The risk levels are more elevated too: if earlier there were high, medium and low levels, now there is only ‘risk’ and ‘high risk’, with previously assessed average risks now being identified as high risks. Naturally, this increases the possibility of offering electronic supervision to victims.
What are the statistics on the use of electronic surveillance, and do they reflect the recent changes?
From 2020, when the system launched, until 1 May 2023, law enforcement officers were given the opportunity to offer this mechanism to victims in 44 cases. Between May and September 2023, 68 electronic surveillance systems were utilized. This means that the changes have given more victims access to the most effective electronic surveillance and security mechanism available.