PNG JUDGE FREES 50 PRISONERS, CITES OVERCROWDING

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By Julia Daia Bore

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, June 20) - Fifty remandees, including those awaiting trial for murder and rape, have been granted bail from the Boram jail in East Sepik province, Papua New Guinea.

They were allowed temporary release by Justice David Cannings early this month.

The judge visited the jail and found it to be overcrowded, with the inmates living in poor and unhygienic conditions. Among those released were nine detainees charged with murder and 13 for rape. Others also released on "bail with conditions" were facing break-and-entering and armed robbery charges, arson, incest, sexual penetration of a child under 16 and causing grievous bodily harm and other offences.

Justice Cannings visited the Boram jail in April this year following complaints by a group of remandees about their living conditions and the length of time they had spent in custody awaiting trial.

Last month - on May 29 - the judge returned to the prison camp in the company of lawyer Jeffery Mesa from the Public-Solicitor’s office. A special court hearing was convened, which was devoted to hearing applications for bail from 61 remandees.

In a media statement on Friday, Justice Cannings said "the conditions in which the applicants were being detained were very poor. Their human rights have been breached; particularly those who have been sick or injured and were not given proper medical treatment. This is something that favors granting the applications".

"As to the length of time in remand, this varies for each applicant. It is something I gave a lot of weight to when determining the applications," Justice Cannings said.

The issues raised in Mesa’s submission, according to Cannings’ report, stated that:

Granting bails to the Boram remandees, Justice Cannings said: "It is now up to each successful applicant and each guarantor appointed by the court to do the right thing, and ensure all bail conditions are met until each applicant’s trial is heard and their case concluded."

The remandees are out on PGK300 [US$104] bail with their guarantors paying PGK200 [US$69] each to ensure they abide by the National Court conditions set down for them.

Among the conditions set are that they report regularly to the Dagua courthouse and not to consume alcohol or take any intoxicating drugs.

They must also attend and be involved in church activities and maintain peace. They must also behave at all times.

Justice Cannings also thanked the lawyers involved in the bail hearing, who appeared at short notice and assisted greatly in the efficient disposition of so many bail applications in a short space of time.

June 21, 2006

The National: www.thenational.com.pg/

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