Samoa's National Prosecution Office has started its operations despite the post of Director of Public Prosecutions remaining vacant. Following recent speculations about the Office, in a statement, the National Prosecution Office confirmed that it became an official entity on 1 January this year. The following is the statement in full:
Early in the year 2014, the Attorney General was tasked by the Prime Minister of Samoa to assess whether or not the establishment of an independent national prosecution office for Samoa will resolve some of the issues raised by members of the public concerning prosecution in the country.
The main issues raised were the quality of police prosecution services within the Ministry of Police, the availability and quality of prosecution services within the Government Ministries other than the police, and the apparent conflict between the Attorney General’s role as Chief Prosecutor for the country and his role as principal legal advisor for the Government, as well as the need for uniformity for prosecutions at all levels in Samoa. The Attorney General then sought the assistance of the Commonwealth Secretariat in the form of financial assistance to hire a consultant for the project.
The Commonwealth Secretariat approved the request for assistance and contracted a consultant to assist Samoa with this most important project.
The consultant eventually contracted by the Commonwealth Secretariat through a bidding process was Nick Cowdery AM, QC, BA, LLB, HonLLD, FAAL and former Director of Public Prosecutions for New South Wales. A paper was developed by the Attorney General with the assistance of the consultant for the cabinet.
The paper was to discuss whether or not it is time to establish a national prosecution office within Samoa. Stakeholders such as members of the judiciary, law society, members of the public sector and Non-Government organisation were consulted in the development of this paper for the cabinet.
The paper eventually submitted to cabinet discussed all the issues raised in the consultations as well as the issues raised by the Prime Minister, which initiated this whole project, and recommended the establishment of a National Prosecution Office.
On 2 December 2014, the cabinet endorsed the paper submitted and instructed the Attorney General to commence work in the establishment of a National Prosecution Office. The Attorney General in close consultation with Mr. Nick Cowdery commenced works in the establishment of such an office.
As of 1 January 2016, the National Prosecution Office officially commenced work as an independent office. The N.P.O. was established pursuant to the Constitutional Amendment Act (No.2) 2015 and National Prosecution Office Act 2015. The core function of this office is to conduct, institute and supervise all criminal prosecutions and appeals for the country.
Since the beginning of this year, police officers have been seconded to the office to assist the office in taking over all prosecutions in the District Court.
The N.P.O. is now appearing in the District Court as well as taking over all the criminal functions of the Attorney General in the Supreme Court of Samoa.
The Office is to be headed by the Director of Public Prosecutions. At this early stage in effecting the work of the National Prosecution Office, acknowledgement is given to the Ministry of Police and the Ministry of Finance for its assistance and support, as well as the National Provident Fund and the Samoa Land Corporation for their continual support.