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We are glad that justice has deservedly been served against shonky Nicon slipway owner in Santo, Nigel Giltrap (pictured below, courtesy of Daily Post). This burly-built man will spend 14 months in jail for bullying and cowardly assaulting elderly couple – Stephen, 83, and Ruth Quinto, 77, on 20th March 2018. He obviously does not belong to a society of law and order and peace-loving people. Justice may have been served but at what cost? And why was this matter so special to be treated in the manner we have done, you may ask?

For those interested, Campaign for Justice (C4J) spent well over a million in the last 15 months to ensure the assault this man committed  subjects his behavior to our Court of Law . These were funds made available to provide extra support to police in the evidence-gathering process by C4J investigators, as well as raising awareness and shining the spotlight in the media, into the dark alleys of justice that don’t often get the public’s attention.

The reason why C4J went out of its way to expend that kind of money was not so much that it concerned the Quintos, but more to do with Mr Giltrap’s notoriety and tendency to act with impunity as if Vanuatu was some John Wayne territory for him to do anything he wanted.

In fact, it was getting to the stage where our justice system was failing to take Giltrap to account for his crime. Important institutions of Government, including the office of the public prosecutor were faltering in adequately dealing with, and disposing of- the case within lawful time.

And there had been instances where the actions of the officers of the public prosecution cast serious doubts about their desire as well as their ability to handle the matter. For instance, just this year in March, for some strange reasons, the prosecutor – apparently the second one to be assigned; out of the blue denied he was in attendance at a hearing when Supreme Court minutes of the judge actually stated that the prosecutor was present.

Going back a little, the Giltrap case first went before a magistrate in March of 2018. Then it was brought before Justice Andree Wiltens in the interim at the Supreme Court level. While C4J is especially grateful that the Chief Justice eventually took it upon himself to hear the matter, it remains unclear why such a straightforward assault case – captured on CCTV camera, could be so difficult to bring to Court –costing everyone time, money and – most of all – belief in the protection of our Judicial System.

We could only conclude that given the character and past records of Mr Giltrap, it appears Giltrap went through every nook and cranny to avoid prosecution. We are mindful that this assertion borders on conjecture and speculation at best, but who knows how far Mr Giltrap might have gone in order to cause such a long delay. He really would have had his way, had it not been for persistent pressure from C4J.

And so the sad story finally found its way into the light: a date would be set by the courts and Mr Giltrap would pop up just days before the set date and somehow convince authorities, even court authorities that he had to travel to New Zealand. His passport would be kindly returned and he would travel to New Zealand, notwithstanding his bail conditions which restricted him from leaving the country. It did not matter how many weeks he stayed in New Zealand. In truth, no court orders restrained this man. Neither did authorities give any due consideration for the emotional harm long delays were inflicting upon the two elderly citizens, both of whom were seriously injured in that bust up with Giltrap on the night of 20th March, 2018.

Now ponder this for a moment. If this were a case against another citizen—maybe someone way out in an island whose only revenue source was copra, or a single mum who had five children to take care of, how would they respond? How would they react if a crime like that were against them? Most definitely most ni-Vanuatu cannot easily dispense with the kind of money C4J put up in order to fight the injustice.

It did not help when Giltrap went around trying to cover his tracks, at times blatantly, to avoid prosecution. Like for instance, the very next day of the assault when he returned to Si Chuan Restaurant to try and remove the CCTV recording.

It begs the question, if justice — a fundamental right under the Vanuatu Constitution is really meant to be for everyone, what guarantee is there that citizens will get it?

In our experience, we’ve sadly discovered that institutions — meant to defend and protect citizens have easily bowed to pressure and other incentives. Most do not have the backbone to stand up, and would happily do the biddings of the corrupt and the powerful.

Mr Giltrap was a convicted investor from New Zealand. Police or VIPA did not need to seek help from the New Zealand foreign Affairs or Interpol to dig out his records. Just a quick search on Google easily brought up records of Giltrap’s criminal history. During sentencing all of that was recounted to him by the Chief Justice.

But it is quite obvious that gone are the days when authorities went through extra-ordinary lengths to run the rule against potential investors to ensure that only those with the right pedigree were allowed in.

Giltrap’s case marks a major turning point for Campaign for Justice — founded with a focused mission: to shine the spotlight on issues of injustice faced by ordinary peoples. We’ve campaigned long and hard with law enforcement agencies and authorities, to reawaken the public’s benumbed conscience.

Trial took place late last month after more than a year of promises and date-setting ­– and lip service to the cause of justice. Nigel John Giltrap was convicted on June 10th, 2019. The Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek pronounced his sentence on July 12th after more than a year of painful wait.

The full sentencing judgement can be viewed directly from the Supreme Court website.

On behalf of everyone concerned with the issue of justice and those behind C4J, we wish to thank everyone who has had a part in this fight. Campaign for Justice is relaunching shortly. Rest assured we would be leaving no stones unturned as we focus our attention on issues that continue to plague ordinary citizens. We do hope you can be a part of this worthy cause.

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