27 Feb 2007

Solomons' courts slowly getting on top of huge number of cases - court official

8:03 pm on 27 February 2007

The Solomon Islands High Court says the system is doing its best to work through a long backlog of serious criminal cases.

The High Court CEO Bruce Kelly says the backlog has been causing long delays in cases for prisoners on remand at Honiara's Central Rove prison.

Ten prisoners at Rove, manys of whom have been on remand for up to 3 years on murder charges, have begun a hunger strike in protest at the long delay.

Mr Kelly says that they're slowly getting on top of an unprecedented number of cases.

"Each of the prisoners who are protesting has had a date fixed for their case. Those people have their constitutional rights. If they wish to apply for bail on the basis of delay, they're certainly entitled to do that. Some have done it. And I would say that at least two of the prisoners on strike at the moment have been sentenced to very lengthy jail terms for other unrelated matters. It's not unreasonable that those do not have as high a priority when it comes to listing as those who are solely held pending a trial."

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