Improving Justice for Children in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea police and legal professionals will be better prepared to investigate and prosecute crimes concerning children, following a ‘Pikinini Witness Workshop’ held in Port Moresby last week.
An initiative of the Office of the Public Prosecutor (OPP) and the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC), the workshop involved 22 Australian and Papua New Guinean police officers and prosecutors, working together to strengthen investigative, interviewing and examining skills.
Since the introduction of the Lukautim Pikinini Act in 2014, there has been increased recognition that vulnerable witnesses, particularly children, require special care and consideration when their evidence is given to police and in court.
The workshop included moot court situations, where prosecutors practiced examining and cross-examining vulnerable witnesses in an effective and sensitive manner. Other sessions included medical evidence in child sexual offences, child development as well as reducing trauma in interviews.
At the workshop’s opening, Counsellor Michael Sloane of the Australian High Commission thanked the Queensland Police Service and the Queensland Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, for supporting the OPP and the RPNGC, and donating their time and skills for the second consecutive year.
“Together with the support from Queensland, three Australian Government-funded programs are assisting the OPP and the RPNGC to lead this workshop. This is testament to Australia’s commitment to supporting law and justice in Papua New Guinea, and demonstrates the strong partnership between our two countries in addressing family and sexual violence.”
This workshop is funded through the PNG-Australia Law and Justice Partnership – Transition Program, and is supported by the Strongim Gavman Program in collaboration with the Australian Attorney-General’s Department, and the PNG-Australia Policing Partnership.
Speaking at the workshop closing, Public Solicitor Jim Wala Tamate described the initiative as “vital” and thanked the Australian Government for the investment in building the capacity of police officers and lawyers.
“It takes a lot of courage for a child to give evidence, sometimes against the actions of their own parents. It is also how we approach and deal with these cases and evidence that determines a matter in the court of law,” said Mr Tamate.
He challenged the attending lawyers and police officers to work together as a team to deliver best practice justice services.
“In criminal cases, the bottom line is providing evidence, and if we don’t provide that evidence properly then there is no justice for the victims of crime,” he said.
Pakal Gabe, a participant from the RPNGC said participants learned and practiced many new skills in the workshop, which will assist their daily work and will be shared with their colleagues.
The Australian Government is committed to supporting Papua New Guinea’s efforts to address family and sexual violence, promoting gender equality and strengthen legal systems.