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Access to Justice

The core mission of Campaign for Justice 2018 (C4J) is to ensure that the people of Vanuatu, regardless of their religion, ethnicity or any other social standing, have access to justice and that justice is accorded to them when they need it. This piece provides the broad strokes for our Access to Justice Series, and lays the groundwork for at least four forthcoming items which will cover various aspects of justice, which we at C4J believe have direct bearings on how efficiently justice is administered in this country. The legal maxim of ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ cannot be expounded more succinctly. When justice is not accorded in a timely manner, it is very much the same as having no justice at all. This simply means that a legal redress available to a party in a trial must be provided within reasonable time. If justice is not done to the sufferer within such time, then it is the same as having no legal redress at all. In criminal matters more specifically, the person who has been wronged depends entirely on key institutions established by the state to deliver justice on their behalf. It begins with the police. In our next blog piece we will discuss the critical role that the police have in delivering justice to the masses and why it is of paramount importance that they go about their duties independently and without fear, favour or ill will. For now, we will point out that the key players in administering justice generally are the police investigators, the public prosecutors (including public solicitor), and the courts. Because of the multi-layered functions and institutions involved in delivering justice, it is quite significant that each of them thoroughly fulfil their key roles if the Vanuatu public is to have the trust and confidence in their judiciary to fulfil its constitutional role of administrating justice. In our context, when key institutions do not carry out their functions as they are supposed to because of the ever-present weaknesses of public institutions within government apparatuses, then great harm is done, not only to the parties involved, but also to the community and society at large. As a least developed country (LDC) we are grateful for the many programs funded by donor partners to assist these key institutions fulfil their statutory functions. One such program is called Stretem Rod blong Jastis programme funded by the Australian government since 2012. Under this program, complaints are meant to be properly assessed, recorded and then registered. The programme was also meant to improve case filing and management and retrieval, and provide better synergy between Police Department and the Office of the Public Prosecutor/State prosecutors. So for instance with cases, a case file recording system was established so that once a complaint is registered at the police station, a notification is dispatched instantly to the office of the public prosecutor. The system was meant to help track and monitoring progress of criminal cases so that victims can have better access to justice. More than five years on, questions remain as to whether Stretem Rod Blong Jastis programme has indeed yielded the desired outcomes. There is evidence to suggest that the police department, the prosecutions and the courts continue to struggle to carry out their functions. In our third series on this broad theme – “Access to Justice” we will shine the spotlight on some of the bottlenecks prevalent in key institution of state – thus denying ordinary citizens access to justice they so much need and expect. C4J will advocate strongly and incessantly for this worthy cause throughout its campaign.

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