Date of this Version

January 2004

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Postprint of:
Colvin, E.(2004)Criminal procedure in the South Pacific. Journal of South Pacific Law. Vol 8(1)

The Journal of South Pacific Law is published by the University of the South Pacific
Copyright ©Journal of South Pacific Law. All rights reserved.
Permission granted.


This paper surveys the legislation governing criminal procedure in the jurisdictions of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia which possess a heritage of English law. There are twelve jurisdictions in this category: Cook Islands, Fiji Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Collectively, they will be described as the jurisdictions of ‘the South Pacific region’. In some instances, versions of English law were received directly from the United Kingdom. In other instances, they came through Australia or New Zealand. The concern of this paper, however, is not with historical matters. Its aim is instead to examine the shape of the legislation currently in force, charting the general themes which characterise the region and some of the distinctive features of particular jurisdictions.

The paper complements an earlier examination of issues of responsibility under the criminal codes of the South Pacific region. That paper traced the impact of two models of codification. The ‘Stephen code’, originally drafted by Sir James Stephen in England in the late nineteenth century, became the foundation for the New Zealand Crimes Act and then for the criminal codes of Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tokelau. The ‘Griffith code’, originally drafted for Queensland by Sir Samuel Griffith at the end of the nineteenth century, was first enacted in Queensland itself, then later exported by Australia to Nauru and Papua New Guinea. It was also used as a model by British officials in the Colonial Office and subsequently the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They exported it to Fiji Islands, Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu. Tonga and Vanuatu stand apart from these models: their statutes on criminal offences are unique. The Stephen and Griffith codes, however, still provide the framework for the law of criminal offences in the jurisdictions where they were introduced.



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