16 Jul 2010

Tonga about to lose two of its three Supreme Court justices

2:08 pm on 16 July 2010

Tonga is to lose two of its three expatriate Supreme Court judges next month.

The Deputy Chief Justice Warwick Andrew has resigned and will leave at about the same time as Chief Justice Anthony Ford, whose contract was not rolled over by the Government as many had expected.

The remaining judge, Robert Shuster, has been promoted by the Government as a potential new Chief Justice, but he's faced criticism over his rulings, such as sentencing youths to be whipped - a penalty that this week was overturned on appeal.

Our correspondent, Mateni Tapueluelu, says pro-democracy MPs have tried to have Justice Shuster impeached while the Tonga Law Society has called for him to be axed.

"They've complained against Shuster as a judge who doesn't have the experience or the competence to be a judge of the Supreme Court of Tonga. That was in writing. It was forwarded to Government but there has been no word on that."

This week the Tonga Legislative Assembly abolished the independent Judicial Services Commission which appoints judges.

That role will now be filled by an appointee of the King.