M.J.C.A. launches “video link” initiative with prisoners

A prisoner-focused video link initiative, where prisoners will no longer have to appear in Court for criminal mention, has been launched.

The project overseen by the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration (M.J.C.A.) and Ministry of Police and Prison has been described as a “milestone” by the Acting Chief Justice, His Honour Vui Clarence Nelson.

“Today was the first time we conducted court proceedings through video link for the inmates in Police custody and this was conducted by Supreme Court Justice Leiataualesa Darryl Clarke along with lawyers, interpreters and court registrars,” he said.

Justice Vui said an inmate will only appear in court for his or her trial proper and the project has been several weeks in the making.

Ensuring the video link is not vulnerable to security breaches such as hacking is an issue, which the Acting Chief Justice said has been addressed.

“This has been in the works for several weeks and setting up the video link which has to be a secure line, otherwise people can hack it,” he added.

“There have been cases where people have hacked into court links for bail applications and put it on YouTube. And the security of these video links is a concern and there have been several firewalls installed at the prison’s end and our end.” 

Vui commended the M.J.C.A. Chief Executive Officer Moliei Vaai, the Commissioner of Police as well as information technology staff from the two Ministries who ensured the launching was a success.

“A total of 27 prisoners had their mentions in less than two hours and this is how the courts will be going forward and it will save the Government’s resources,” he added.

The initiative was the result of challenges that the courts faced during the measles epidemic last year, when they were unable to hold any court hearings.

The Acting Chief Justice added: “We have the technology, equipment and the fast internet services and we opted to move forward with it. In the meantime, there is only one court room that has this ability, however, the Ministry is moving to equip all the courtrooms.”

It is understood the creation of a video link to hook up with inmates in jail was first recommended in a report titled "Detention Centre Inspection Report 2019" compiled by the Office of the Ombudsman. 

Vui’s witnessing of the project’s unveiling marked one of his last duties as Acting Chief Justice before handing over to the new appointee, His Honour Satiu Simativa Perese.

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