Study reports access to justice gaps in many South Pacific nations

via Access to Justice Blog by mgramatikov on 10/27/11

Recently published Needs evaluation survey by the South Pacific Lawyers Association reveal significant access to justice gaps in most of the studied countries:

  • Australia 
  • Papua New Guinea 
  • Cook Islands 
  • Republic of the Fiji Islands 
  • Kingdom of Tonga 
  • Samoa 
  • Kiribati 
  • Solomon Islands 
  • Nauru 
  • Timor Leste 
  • New Zealand 
  • Tuvalu 
  • Niue 
  • Vanuatu 
  • Norfolk Island 
With the exceptions of Australia and New Zealand there are no publicly funded civil justice assistance schemes in most of the studied countries. For instance, in the Cook Islands "there is is limited criminal legal aid and none for civil, matrimonial and other areas". Similarly, in Nauru, Public Defenders Office provides legal assistance in criminal but not civil cases. Tonga provids no legal aid at all.

In Papua New Ginea there are only 591 lawyers for a population of more than 6 million. According to the study this indicates limmited access to justice. Citizens of Papua New Ginea can count on the services of the "Public Solicitor's office provides assistance in criminal and civil cases, subject to a small means test." Furthermore, the report informs that legal aid is mostly available in criminal matters.

In summary, the Needs evaluation survey finds that:
"Governments in South Pacific countries should conduct a comprehensive review of the funding of legal aid/assistance and the improvement of coordination of legal aid and assistance services in partnership with the legal profession to improve access to justice."

Read the Needs Evaluation Survey for South Pacific Lawyer Associations here

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