Today’s Events: How Our Institutions Failed Bernice Cassar
This Morning's Femicide
Her name was Bernice Cassar. She was beaten & shot dead by her husband this morning shortly after 8AM today.
A similarly tragic case shocked the nation just 11 months ago - her name was Paulina Dembska. Today, we have seen a different side of a similarly heartbreaking situation, where institutional failures once again led to a femicide in Malta.
So - what do we know so far?
Bernice, a 40 year old woman from Qrendi, was a mother of two young kids. She was beaten & shot at 8AM on a street behind the MCAST Paola Campus while she was driving to work. A witness said he heard 3 shots being fired.
A History of Abuse
It has become increasingly apparent that the murder stemmed from the last of a long line of domestic disputes she has had with her husband. She filed several domestic violence reports in the past, with the most recent one taking place last night.
Police tracked the suspect to his Qrendi home, where police & a negotiator began attempting to convince him to turn himself in. As of 6.30PM tonight, police negotiations are ongoing.
Investigators had to keep distressed relatives away from the scene; it’s safe to assume they were understandably shaken by what had just taken place.
Quotes From Her Family
Her aunt was there too, stating that Bernice had made her most recent domestic violence report just last night.
Bernice’s sister, Alessia, posted about the traumatic event.
“She reported & cried for help, but the authorities never really cared. She was sad yesterday because Christmas was around the corner & she was fighting for her safety & that of her kids”, she said.
Her aunt, Silvana, said “six months we’ve been living this nightmare, and no one took him to court.” An inquiry will soon be looking into whether the state failed Bernice as a woman killed following a string of instances of domestic violence.
Looking At Malta's Laws
This is the first murder of its nature ever since Malta introduced the concept of femicide into the Criminal Code. Evidently, though, the law is not enough to prevent femicide.
We need to take a real look at our laws & judicial system - clearly the steps taken from the moment that a police report is filed are not anywhere near sufficient to protect victims.
How do we know this?
Bernice filed several domestic violence reports against her alleged killer. She was also given a Protection Order (PO) against this man.
Why Wasn't He Arraigned?
A PO essentially prevents an aggressor from contacting, approaching, interacting with, or monitoring the movements of a victim. The job of a PO is to provide safety. Contravening any of the directions in a PO makes the offender liable to a large fine or a 6 month jail term - or both.
Naturally, this makes you wonder: how was this man able to come anywhere near her? She had a Protection Order against him, & she reported domestic violence against him last night.
Why was he not arraigned earlier? Bernice did everything she could within her legal rights, as a Maltese citizen, to protect herself.
Malta's Slow Courts
Bernice was forced to wait over a year for her case against her husband to start. She first reported her husband to the police in May of this year, & police pressed charges against him.
Malta’s notoriously snail-paced courts scheduled the first sitting for this case for November 2023; which would be in exactly one year from now, the month where she was murdered.
What all does this suggest? It suggests that we could have saved Bernice Cassar’s life. More specifically, it suggests Malta’s institutions should have saved Bernice's life. 11 months ago, they should’ve saved Paulina’s life too.
How many more women have to die until we see a change?
Reporting doesn’t save our lives. Asking for help doesn’t save our lives. Filing a report doesn't save our lives. Court dates don’t save our lives.