By Melani Toliken

27 Judicial Officers from nine Pacific Island countries participated in a workshop on Fraud and Corruption last week at Hilton Hotel in Port Moresby.

The pilot workshop is an initiative of the Pacific Centre for Judicial Excellence under the auspices of the Papua New Guinea Centre for Judicial Excellence in the Pacific to facilitate judicial education and training with the Federal Court of Australia through funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The objective of this specialist training was to build the competence of Judicial Officers to hear some of the most prevalent types of fraud and corruption-related cases heard in their own jurisdictions across the Pacific region.

The judicial facilitating team included Justice Les Gavara-Nanu, Justice Teresa Berrigan, Chief Justice of the District Court of Queensland Judge Brian Devereaux and Judge of the District Court of Queensland Justice Brad Farr.

Chief Justice Sir Gibuma Gibbs Salika gave the opening remarks speaking on the need to address fraud and corruption in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Island States as it affects all our people.

Sir Gibbs said he is happy with the commitment to ensure that we improve our competence through judicial training education to specifically prepare ourselves in addressing the most prevalent types of fraud and corruption cases in our jurisdictions.

He said the concept of fraud and corruption is one that is challenging to developing states.

“All of us have heard cases in our capacity as Judges in these areas. However, many involved in the process from police investigators to prosecutors have not been adequately trained to effectively secure convictions through the courts.

“We as judges and judicial officers must ensure that our level of competency is such that regardless of the sophistication of schemes that are developed and executed by those in breach of law, we are able to decipher and apply the law to such realities when in our courts,” Sir Gibbs said. 

He said there are now legislations and regulations in most of our jurisdictions which are focused on ensuring compliance with proper financial reporting for publicly traded companies, particularly around disclosures and reporting. 

 “In Papua New Guinea, the government has made anti-corruption a priority and this is manifested in legislation passed on 12 November 2020 in the form of the Organic law on the Independent Commission Against Corruption.”

Sir Gibbs said in this regard, our courts remain ready to adjudicate on matters as prosecutors move them forward. We have corruption offences in the Criminal Code of 1974 and Proceeds of Crime Act 2005 as amended in 2015. We also have the whistleblower Act 2010 whose focus is to support anti-corruption efforts in PNG.

“We are challenged in the judiciary to develop appropriate training such as this to upskill our judicial officers and ensure that our courts are adequately prepared to handle all of these matters as they come before us.”

Sir Gibbs urged those who attended the workshop to embrace the opportunity to learn, share and discuss the most appropriate forum on ways that our judiciaries can improve access to justice through addressing fraud and corruption as they become matters in our courts for adjudication.

Judicial Officers – Group Photo
Participants during the workshop

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