Thursday, 22 November 2007 10:31 AM

Instant Access, Solomon Islands Law Online

Judges, magistrates and the general public now have Solomon Islands law records at their fingertips.

In a partnership between the government and RAMSI, a small team of Solomon Islanders have been working hard to put all High Court decisions made between 1980 and 1990 on a special legal website for all Pacific countries.

At the same time, the new Institute of Public Administration and Management (IPAM) - the government's training provider for public servants and officers - has been used to provide a central point for training judges and magistrates to use the website.

The Chief Justice, Sir Albert Palmer, said the project was a successful step toward making the law more accessible for all Solomon Islanders.

"Having Solomon Islands law at our fingertips is a huge benefit for so many people from our students studying law to those of us presiding over current cases," the Chief Justice said.

The task of making High Court judgments available - a regional website for Pacific egislation and judgments known as PacLII (www.paclii.org) - has not been an easy one for the RAMSI-funded Back Capture Unit.

The supervisor of the Back Capture Unit, June Maru, says that in the past there was no system or central place for storing and sharing judgments. As a result, many important judgments are difficult to find or access.

"Once the judgments are located, they must be scanned, edited and then proof read before being sent for uploading onto the PacLII website," Ms Maru said.

All reported judgments from 1980 to 1990 are now available online free of charge.

Chief Justice, Sir Albert Palmer, said that High Court staff were now ensuring that new judgments from 2003 onwards were available on the website.

"The work of the Back Capture Unit has been received well by legal professionals in Solomon Islands and across the region, in fact we are proud to be leading the way in the speed at which our judgments are now available online," the Chief Justice said.

RAMSI Development Coordinator, Paul Kelly, was pleased to see the recently refurbished IPAM building being used to provide IT training for such an important project.

"Assisting the Chief Justice to provide a more accessible justice system for all Solomon Islanders is another important step for rebuilding the law and justice sector," Mr Kelly said.

Magistrates attending the first training using the new IT training facility at IPAM said accessing past Solomon Islands judgments online will really benefit their work.

Magistrate Jefferson Leua said using the PacLII website ensures that he keeps up to date with all case law decisions in the region which keeps Solomon Islands up with best practice.

"Being able to refer to High Court judgments really assists magistrates. It is easier for us to be authorative in our decisions because we can refer to decisions already made by the High Court," Mr Leua explained.

Solomon Islanders studying law at USP can now also access Solomon Islands law - making their studies more relevant.

The Back Capture Unit is now working with the High Court to locate missing judgments from 1991 to 2003.