PacLII still improving access to the law for everyone

The institute which ensures judicial, legislative, academic and media bodies (along with governments across the Pacific) are regularly informed of new legislation and judgements in the region has a new lease on life.

PacLII has recently seemed to be simply clinging on to a life and its particular character which have been greatly appreciated by the above professions. Yet funding has been a problem. It is PacLII which has brought we journalists closer to the the finer points of the detail of the law as in the judgement in the bribery case last year as soon as it was handed down. In fact, the very next day in that case.

PacLII (the Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute) is based at the Emalus Campus of the University of the South Pacific here in Port Vila, at the region’s leading School of Law.

It was started to overcome the tyrannies of distance for the professions mentioned above, and Daily Post is amongst the publishing bodies ready to acknowledge a debt of gratitude.

Some 20 Pacific Islands Countries are members of PacLII which regularly learn of the constitutional, legislative and judicial changes in the development of the island states and receive court information and judgements detailing the most serious infringements of the law in those countries.

Dr Anita Jowitt is the present Director of PacLII. She has been teaching at USP since1997 and is now responsible for PacLII strategic directions such as looking to new developmental projects and plans.

She has recently attended a conference in Cyprus of the LII fraternity members from around the world.

Addressing an interested body of users (academic, government and NGO) on Friday at USP she pointed out how free access to the law remains a responsibility of governments and ways in which governments could assist in this regard here in the Pacific.

Strengthening meaningful access to the law is implied through PacLII country membership, even when there are costs involved to governments. A new project for the Pacific may well be the Pacific Constitutions Research Network.

We will certainly hear more about that in the near future and as we are planning further constitutional change ourselves.

There are also possibilities for law firms to assist PacLII Dr Jowitt mentioned. CanLII, the Canadian legal institute enables law firms to provide legal commentaries which are approved by CanLII.

AustLII has produced handbooks to assist with the law in particular communities in Australia.

It is possibly early days for considering PacLII’s financial future assured.

However, given the present Vanuatu government’s insistence on getting everything it does legally correct after so many other administrations have failed in different ways, and given the RTI (right to information) policy now awaiting legislation, 2016 is certainly a good time for government and PacLII to become better acquainted.

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