PNG police press judges to speed up court backlog

9:27 am on 5 March 2020

Police in Papua New Guinea's Western Highlands province want a court backlog addressed to prevent more jailbreaks.

The Baisu Correctional Facility in Mt Hagen in Papua New Guinea.

The Baisu Correctional Facility in Mt Hagen in Papua New Guinea. Photo: Supplied/PNG Correctional Services

Eight people were shot dead as over 100 inmates escaped from Baisu prison near Mt Hagen last week.

The vast majority are on remand.

Provincial Police Commander Jacob Kamiak said the chronic slowness of prisoners' cases coming to trial is the main problem driving jailbreaks.

Police recently pressed judges on this matter at a Mt Hagen workshop attended by a senior judge from Port Moresby, he said.

"During that workshop we talked about the backlog of prisoners who are waiting for their decisions, the remandees. The judge from Moresby told them to speed up the decisions."

Meanwhile, about 70 escapees from Baisu remain at large.

Mr Kamiak said it was proving difficult to recapture the men, and that the public were reluctant to help.

Recapturing escapees depended heavily on the help of a public who in that region were caught up in tribal conflict, which also impeded his officers tracking the men down.

"That's why the public are reluctant. They went and cut off the escape route. Warring tribe that was having a tribal war, they cut off the escape route. They surrounded my police personnel and disarmed them."

Meanwhile, Baisu Jail commander Chief Superintendent Timbi Kaugla said the Western Highlands province prison was badly overcrowded due to having to absorb prisoners and remandees from other provinces.

He said most of the inmates come from the neighbouring province of Enga.

Mr Kaugla told EMTV that Enga should build its own jail to house its prisoners.