27 Feb 2007

Solomons court struggles to clear backlog

5:11 pm on 27 February 2007

The Solomon Islands High Court says it's slowly getting on top of an unprecedented backlog of cases.

But the High Court CEO Bruce Kelly says this backlog is still causing long delays in hearing cases for prisoners on remand at Honiara's Central Rove prison.

Ten prisoners at Rove, who have mostly served about three years in remand for murder, have begun a hunger strike in protest at the delays.

Mr Kelly says that while five years ago there was just a handful of trials, now the Court has 120 ongoing trials, mostly for serious offences committed during the ethnic tensions.

"It's imperative, I think, for Solomon Islands and for the future of police in this country, that all these matters are dealt with and they're dealt with quickly. Some places in the Pacific, high profile trials are taking up to ten years to be resolved and that's leaving some gaping wounds in the community and Solomon Islands is determined, with the assistance of RAMSI, not to allow that to happen here."

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice has already ordered a review into the delays in response to a petition by the hunger striking prisoners.