Only 65% of Court warrants effected

Law enforcement authorities have only been able to effect 65 per cent of warrants issued by the Courts between 2016-2017, a Ministry of Justice Courts and Administration report has revealed.

The inability of the law enforcement authorities to effect the warrants were highlighted in the Ministry of Justice Courts and Administration Annual Report for the Financial Year 2016-2017.

“Over the years the Ministry has struggled to address this matter. Finding offenders liable for payment, of course fines, is default for the various reasons: offenders migrate overseas, some have passed away, some change their location of stay, some have had name changes, simply non-compliance and dishonesty of offenders etc.,” stated the report.

The report also highlighted the difficulties that the Ministry faced when it convened a Commission of Inquiry to check the performance of Land and Titles Court (L.T.C.) judges.    

“This was an intense period for the Ministry as we tried to meet the expectations of the judiciary, the executive arm and especially that of the public,” stated the annual report. 

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The Commission of Inquiry was announced by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi in June 2016, when during a ministerial statement, he claimed that the privileges of being an L.T.C. judge was abused as some of them were using it as “a holiday” until their retirement when they turned 70 years of age. The P.M. did not name the judge in his statement back then. 

The annual report also focused on a large amount of debt that the Ministry had accumulated as a result of outstanding payments carried over from previous financial years. It was unclear as to how much was the amount of the debts as efforts two get responses were not answered on the matter. 

The increasing number of criminal and civil cases that went before the Courts was also highlighted with the report stated that the cases had increased by 4.5 per cent compared to the previous year. That is in the financial years 2015-2016, a total of 16,733 court cases were recorded, compared to 17,497 for the 2016-217 financial years. 

“This indicates the increasing workload dealt by the Courts and the Ministry,” stated the annual report.

The annual report also made reference to major Government projects scheduled and planned on behalf of the State for that period which did not happen. These included the establishment and commencement of operations of a Community Law Centre. 

“The Community Law Centre will strengthen and enhance public access to legal services and legal information in Samoa and will provide a median for lawyers, who wish to volunteer their services and for law students to gain valuable experience to enhance their skills and knowledge. 

“It will provide free legal service in particular to members of the public who cannot afford private legal assistance. This project was put on hold as per Cabinet directive,” stated the annual report.

Ministry said it was optimistic that the Community Law Centre project will be realised in the near future.

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