Law School development for Tokelau Judges
Tokelau judges return home better equipped after five day law school in Apia, Samoa.
Lay Judges from Tokelau are returning home better equipped to deliver justice after completing a recent law school training course in Apia.
Supported by the Pacific Judicial Development Programme, the training was administered by Samoan judges and aimed at developing competence, judicial knowledge, and fostering the values of being a good judge.
The programme team leader, Livingston Armytage told Koroi Hawkins most of Tokelau's judges have no formal legal training despite being placed in positions of considerable authority.
LA: I've just returned after ten days in Apia and on this visit we were conducting training for the judiciary of Tokelau. What was special about this visit was that it's the first time dedicated training has been provided for the judges of Tokelau even though, of course, it was in Apia and secondly this training was being done largely by judges from Samoa and Tokelau, so it was being locally-delivered judicial training.
KOROI HAWKINS: And what do you train judges about? What did it cover?
LA: It's a tricky question that. Let me explain that three quarters of the judicial officers who work in the Pacific have not had the advantage of going to law school. I'm talking about island magistrates and lay magistrates and law commissioners in Tokelau, for example. None of them have been to the (Victoria) University of Wellington for example or USP for a five year law course. They are, none the less, put in the role of performing judicial duties so they're behaving like judges and magistrates on behalf of the state and do a remarkable job. Having said that the purpose of this sort of training is to support them doing that job in the best possible way. It's a fairly crammed course. It's pretty intensive and we're not trying to do everything. You can't cover in five days what a law school takes five years to do. So we've had to craft a curriculum that is honed to the needs of these lay judicial officers, in this case in Tokelau, but of course we do this course in other places. We did it last year in Federated States of Micronesia and we do it at a regional level. But when we do it at a local level as we did last week we find the levels of satisfaction are higher because of course the training can be localised to the specific jurisdiction of the people who are being trained.
KH: I'm very aware of people learning on the job in the Pacific and coming up through the ranks but I did not know that that was the case with judges, those in the legal sphere. Is that situation specific to Tokelau or is that happening elsewhere as well, that you have judges judging cases who have not been through law school as you mentioned.
LA: I think you can say it's characteristic of the Pacific which is not to say that there aren't many law-trained judges. There are. For example we ran this course in Apia and all of the judicial officers in the District and the Supreme Court of Samoa are law-trained and in the larger jurisdictions that's characteristic. So in Papua New Guinea which has over 150 magistrates, they're all law-trained. All of the judges in the National Court of PNG are law -trained, so I don't want to suggest for one minute that there aren't alot of law-trained judges in the Pacific. There are but they tend to be in what we call the superior courts and the courts of first instance, the island courts, the Magistrates Courts, that are in fact much closer to the ordinary people and are usually on the more remote islands, the judicial actors there are more often what we call "lay", in other words they've not had a law training. And it's not just the judges of course, it's also the court officers and others. So when I said that three quarters of the judicial actors in the Pacific, on our best data are lay, that's including court officers and as I say that first tier of magistrates that are closest to the people in local communities across the Pacific. I think this is not just characteristic of the Pacific but pretty unique to the Pacific too. One of the things that we do on the Pacific Judiicial Development Programme which is funded by the New Zealand government, and we call it PJDP, is try to build on the strengths of the local actors, whoever they are, wherever we find them. We don't try to steamroll something that works well in Wellington or Canberra and say well that's what works in these places so this is what we're going to roll out in Niue or Tuvalu. To the contrary we spend a lot of time working with our local counterparts in each of these jurisdictions. Each one is different, really hand-built training or support that addresses their specific needs and builds on the strengths they've already got.
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