Spousal laws allow for indiscretions Editorial
Kaieteur News
July 8, 2004

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Some Englishman once said, “The law is an ass” or words to that effect. What he meant is that the law can often be misconstrued or even misrepresented and the person who does so best is allowed to win. The law, therefore, is not often about right and wrong but about the perception of what is right and wrong.

If a man breaks into a home he is guilty of an offence. However, if a man breaks into his own home then he is committing no offence. The law stipulates that a man cannot break into his own home.

It is here that problems arise. If a man and his wife happen to be leading separate lives because one walks out on the other then according to the law, either party can enter the home for whatever reason, except arson, and do as that party pleases. The person does need to use a key because as the law stipulates, neither party is committing a crime if that party breaks into the home. This, then, is a serious problem for at least one husband whose wife walked out on him and began leading a separate life. Needless to say, the man did not file for a divorce nor did he seek a legal separation. His wife therefore turned up at the home while he was out, destroyed the grillwork at the door and emptied the house.

She took the beds, the refrigerator, the stove, the furniture and just about every article of furniture from the home. The husband returned home from work to find an empty house. He sought the assistance of the police only to be told that the police do not intervene in issues involving husbands and wives.

This may not be entirely true because in cases of assault the police do arrest one party (preferable the man) and once it is established that there was violence that party is sent to jail. In our country, there is no case of a woman being sent to jail for beating a man. The converse, however, is a different story.

When a man or a woman kills a spouse the police do intervene so it is not entirely true that the police do not get involved when husbands and wives disagree. This particular husband, having failed to get any satisfaction from the police, opted to accept his fate but he did contact a lawyer.

The lawyer must have known the law because he informed the husband that there is no law that prevents a wife from removing the articles. As the lawyer put it, a wife cannot steal from a husband. If that is the case then a wife has every right to take whatever she wants in a house and walk away. The husband’s sole chance of recovering anything is when the divorce reaches the court and he petitions for division of property. Perhaps when people crafted the law they did it with the belief that the mere fact that one party can run away with just about everything in the house leaving the other penniless, the intention might have been to have the spouses settle with each other for good since no one would like to be left penniless.

While all this may be good and legal, we fear that the law, as it relates to spouses, offers a potential for the vilest crime. Some people who have the least amount of self-control could resort to violence.

This is when the law would most certainly step in. What is even worse is that a vindictive wife could cause the husband to go to jail. She could break into the home—something that is not illegal—plant some incriminating substance such as a gun or some illegal drugs, then notify the police.

A former Customs officer once ended up in jail because some ranks of the Customs Anti Narcotics Unit raided his home while he was not there, but some friends were, and found a quantity of drugs. By some strange logic, the then Chief Magistrate jailed him and it was up to the Appeals Court to set him free. A wife could place her estranged husband in similar straits. We therefore need to address the law as it relates to the behaviour of spouses and property. The police might contend that they do not intervene in domestic affairs but they would surely respond to either party calling them and alerting them to some illegal substance on the premises.

People could be sent to jail innocently and this would surely make one party wish to kill the other.

In this case the woman has done more that breaking into and clearing the spouse’s home. In fact she broke into the premises on three other occasions. Not satisfied, she has also broken into his car by shattering the left front window.

There must be some relief and only the law can provide it.