PNG Judge Slams Plight Of Jails
Source: The National (PNG)
Funding failure to blame for unhealthy prisons:
LAE: The National Court here has acknowledged the appalling conditions of prisons in the country but refused to grant
bail to a remandee because it was in "the interest of justice", the National reports.
"The Bail Act is not intended to be used to solve problems of overcrowding and unhealthy conditions (in jails)," Justice
Bernard Sakora said when refusing bail to Heisi Tau, a Buimo jail remandee awaiting court appearance on charges of
robbery and rape.
In his ruling, however, Justice Sakora lashed out at the Government for inadequate funding of the Correctional
Institutions Service saying this was the main factor contributing directly to overcrowding and unhygienic and unhealthy
environment in prisons.
"All prisoners throughout the country suffer from these conditions, arising directly from a continuing lack of political
will to adequately fund the operations of the Correctional Institutions Service," said Justice Sakora.
In his submission before the court, the counsel for the applicant, Baru Ovia from Gamago and Co Lawyers, argued that his
client should be allowed bail due to overcrowding at the jail and the unhygienic and unhealthy conditions the inmates
were forced to live in.
State counsel M Peter opposed bail saying that the offences Tau has been charged with were serious, with each count
carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Justice Sakora said although the National Constitution entitles inmates to apply for bail and be granted bail by the
National Court, this right was not absolute.
"The right to bail is qualified by law to the extent that the 'interest of justice' may require that bail should not be
granted," the judge said.
"And the 'interest of justice' may involve a consideration of any one or more of the factors or circumstances enumerated
under Section 9 (1) of the Bail Act."
He said this provision specifically provided that bail should not be refused unless the bail authority was satisfied on
reasonable grounds as to the existence of one or more of those factors.
He said that after considering the application, he was satisfied that factors of "interests of justice" did exist in the
circumstances of Tau's case and rejected the bail application.
Remandees at Buimo are currently on hunger strike to protest against the authorities' failure to improve conditions and
overcrowding in the cell blocks.
The striking inmates, in a petition sent to the media, said the problem of overcrowding at the jail was a direct result
of the failure by the police and the courts to deal with bail applications quickly.
Justice Sakora's ruling, while not linked to the Buimo inmate's hunger strike, acknowledged that inmates throughout the
country suffer because of insufficient funds to house, feed, clothe and attend to the health, social and religious needs
of the inmates.
"And the direct responsibility of these rests with the executive government of the country," he said.
Article provided by the Journalism Programmme, University of the South Pacific. Pasifik Nius.