Some weeks ago the Chief Justice of Vanuatu at a conference with the lawyers mentioned his intention to bring access to justice to some of the more remote islands of Vanuatu in the early part of this year in order to educate self-represented parties or parties who need special protection on their rights and how to approach the courts.
True to his promise he did just that this week when he held a meeting on Tuesday with all members of the public, who were invited via the Daily Post and Facebook to attend this meeting. Their role was to help the court to understand the problems they faced on a daily basis with the court’s (Magistrates, Supreme Court and Island Courts) so that they, as the customers could contribute to improving that system.
At this one day meeting the public voiced their concerns with the court’s being too slow and expensive and delaying in both its decision making and responding to their queries, whether in writing or when they call. On the remaining three days the writer is informed that extensive work and training was undertaken to create practical solutions to solving these problems within the court.
The presenter Doctor Livingston told the crowds that he visited the islands of Epi, Pentecost, Santo and Malekula and held 45 meetings and spoke with over 600 people which included Chiefs, men and women and now he was talking to the people of Efate. Many of the complaints in the outer islands were about customary land disputes and women and children not having access to justice because on the islands there was no police officer or a court, but mostly they just did not know what the courts did and how they could use the courts to help them. Even Minister Regenvanu showed up for a brief time to voice his concerns over delayed land cases and dishonest lawyers.
If you fall under the following list you may be a person who needs special protection or help from the courts;
- If you do not have a lawyer
- If you are a child or under the age of 18
- If you are a woman who has been physically or sexually abused
- If you speak a different language from the court
- If you are from a remote island
So, what should we expect to see from the court over the next year when it comes to assisting persons who need special help?
- The Disciplinary Committee being more active in cases brought to it against dishonest and unethical lawyers. The Chief Justice told the people that so far there have been a few decisions given which have been published on paclii on the internet.
- Decisions of the court possibly being written in Bislama so the ordinary Ni-Vanuatu can understand what the court is saying to him/her.
- Putting more information on the court’s website to help self-represented persons.
- Information coming from the court to educate the public on their fundamental rights under the constitution such as their right to life and protection of the law and their right to a fair trial and more.
- The courts reaching out to the more remote islands to educate chiefs, women and men on what the courts do and how they can make the best use of the courts. As to how this will be achieved, we will see.
- Better and more helpful information from all the staff of the Registry with responses to our questions coming out much sooner than before, and
- The promise of a new court house promised by the Minister when he visited to tell of his issues with the courts.
The writers of this column have tried to help the Ni-Vanuatu people better understand the workings of the court and how best to use the courts and we are very glad to hear about all these changes that will be taking place with the courts over the next few months. This will mean that the problem of educating the people will be tackled on all fronts, by us with Vanuatu Law who will continue to explain the justice system and the law in simple terms and by the court who will be doing even greater outreach in the more remote parts of Vanuatu. Together, we will both ensure that the system is working well and for the benefit of the people whom it was designed to serve.
Court’s 2019 Vision
Enhancing public trust and confidence
Court’s 2019 Mission
To improve the services provided by the courts to court users and the public enabling all to have access to justice.
DISCLAIMER – This is a legal column to provide basic information on the law and court procedure. It is not to be used as a substitute for legal advice but to be used only as a starting point in understanding what you might need and what you might need to do.
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