PILON Litigation skills training – Vanuatu

PILON training in Vanuatu with Judges Coral Shaw (NZ) and Prinicpal Magistrate Emma Garo Ma'arano from the Solomon Islands

PILON training in Vanuatu with Judges Coral Shaw (NZ) and Prinicpal Magistrate Emma Garo Ma'arano from the Solomon Islands

The Pacific Islands Law Officers Network (PILON) has been supported by New Zealand Crown Law for a number of years to deliver a biennial litigation skills programme.  The programme provides the skills required by lawyers who are working as public defenders and prosecutors across the Pacific in case preparation, adducing evidence, cross examination and running a defended Court hearing. 

The training is delivered by a panel of experts who are Judges, Crown Solicitors, Attorney’s General, Queens Counsel, Barristers and field practitioners in the courts across the pacific. Many are graduates of this programme, which NZAID funds.

PPDVP works closely with New Zealand Crown Law who develop and oversee the PILON programme.  The outline for the scenario used in training Pacific police staff in domestic violence assault cases – “Miriam and Ioane” from Kiribati – was used as a new practical court room exercise for the trainees. 

Five police prosecutors joined 32 other participants for the intensive two-week programme at the USP in Vanuatu in November 2008.  The PPDVP Implementation Team provided support and gave an outline of the PPDVP activities, as well as a short session on some of the dynamics around domestic violence so that the trainees would recognise some of these factors in their case work.

The programme is designed to challenge and test the participant’s skills and knowledge and to build these through a series of mock court cases.  No holds are barred in this process and the advice from the panel members is to the point, while being positive and constructive.  PPDVP Programme Manager Cam Ronald said the trainees actively participated.  “At times they were severely tested, but supported one another and did well.”

Since returning to their roles in Kiribati, Vanuatu, and Samoa their progress has been monitored.  Feedback has been received from skilled lawyers working in the Courts about improvements in their case preparation and court room skills.

One of the lessons learnt in this first linkage with the PILON programme is to ensure that the nominees from each of the countries have the right experience and that they are properly prepared. A greater emphasis on selection and pre course preparation will be a feature of PPDVP’s future involvement.  The PILON litigation skills programme is held every two years and the PPDVP will consider placing further police prosecutors on that course in late 2010. 

A spin off from this training has been approval for a scoping exercise on the overall training needs for police prosecutors across the Pacific. These will include skills such as those provided at the PILON course, but also address the wider requirements. The NZ Government is providing support to scope these needs with the police in Kiribati and Samoa. This will then lead to the development of a plan for a wider proposal to support training and skills development for all police prosecutors.

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