Legal Eagle : Living with Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

September 25, 2017

Recently, a woman who said she has been married for well over 10 years, WhatsApp-ed to complain that lately she observed some disturbing changes in her husband after he goes for 'drinks' with his friends.

She said that her husband, who is usually a loving and caring person, turns into a "monster" by physically abusing and threatening to kill her when he drinks and comes home in the wee hours of the morning.

According to her, the husband returns to his normal good behaviour by mid-morning, after a good sleep. She wants to know what to do with this man.

That pattern of behaviour has some resemblance to the strange case of Dr Henry Jekyll and Mr Edward Hyde as outlined in the 1886 novel authored by Robert Louis Stephenson.

The novel is about London lawyer Garbriel John Utterson, who had to investigate a strange situation which occurred between a good old friend, Jekyll, and the evil Hyde.

The connection with Utterson and Jekyll was renewed when Jekyll wrote a will transferring all his properties to Hyde.

A year later, Hyde brutally beat an old man to death. Utterson visited Jekyll who said he ended his relationship with Hyde.

Soon it was realised that Hyde's handwriting resembled Jekyll's. Utterson received report that Jekyll secluded himself in his laboratory for several weeks.

Utterson broke into Jekyll's lab and found Hyde's body in Jekyll's clothes ... dead by suicide. Using a potion, Jekyll would transform to Hyde for pleasure and crime. He left a letter explaining everything.

The situation the woman complains of is obviously not as dire as the story, but it bears some similarity. The drinks in the bar are similar to potion and there is a transformation from 'monster' to a loving and caring husband once more.

The first recommendation is for both parties to see a counsellor, who will listen to the problems and develop a solution to resolve them.

It is very likely that the counsellor my also recommend psychiatric intervention for her husband.

However, if the woman is abused, whether physically or otherwise, the Domestic Violence Act, which provides protection to spouses, children or parents who are abused or threatened with abuse, can be most helpful.

Under the said Act, a parish court judge or judge of the Family Court can make protection and occupation orders, along with ancillary orders, to prohibit her abusive husband from entering or remaining in the household residence, or from entering or remaining in any specified area ordered by the court.

A protection order may be made ex parte, that is to say, with only the applicant before the court and not the respondent.

The court will allow those applications to be heard in case of an emergency and especially when notice to the other side would defeat the application.

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