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Government and Governance

Fiji’s Legal System


By the FSLC History Course Development and Editorial Team (2010-2013)

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.1
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Unit 6 Concept Map

This map shows the core concepts that we’ll be covering in
this unit, and the relationships between them.

Court The building, hall, or room in which such cases are heard and determined
Justice The upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance
with honor, standards, or law.
Appeal The judicial review by a superior court of the decision of a lower court
Legal Officer a public official employed to administer or advise in legal matters
Law The system of rules which a nation or community recognizes as regulating the actions
of its members and which it may enforce by the imposition of penalties
Civil Society Non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations that express the interests and
values of their members or others, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientific,
religious or philanthropic considerations.
Trial Examination of evidence and law by a court to determine the charges or claims
Judiciary A system of courts of law for the administration of justice

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Study organizer
Before you begin this unit, please check through your study organiser. It shows the topics that we will be
covering, the skills you need to acquire (the objectives) and the activities you will do to help you acquire
these skills.

Topic Objectives and Outcomes Task

After completing this unit, you should be

able to:
 Identify the different courts.  Reading 1 / Activity 1
INTRODUCTION:  Activity 2 – Who’s Who in the
Summary of the  Describe Fiji’s legal system.
Local Court
Legal System  Activity 3 – Cartoon

 Define the roles of legal officers.  Activity 4 - Cartoon

The Role of Legal
Officers  Explain of the roles of lawyers and skills
 Activity 5 – Short Answer
that lawyers need to acquire.
 Activity 6 – Short Answer
 Activity 7 – Short Answer

Procedure of a Trial  Describe the processes involved in a trial.  Reading 2 / Activity 8

 Describe the appeal process.  Activity 9 – Group Research

The Appeal Process

 Describe the roles of people in the legal  Activity 10 questions

Other Legal Roles

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The earliest iTaukei relied on decision making by their chiefs, but after the British colony began, courts
were established to solve legal disputes. This is when iTaukei first heard the expression to “go to court”.
This meant appearing before a court of law, where a Judge or a Magistrate would act as a tribunal and
administer justice. This might be in the case of a crime, a dispute or in extreme cases, treason against
the government.

After annexation in 1874, Courts of Law were established by the British for a variety of decision-making.
For example, in 1881-1890 the Land Court of Rotuma heard 100 disputes over land ownership and use.
By the time Fiji became independent in 1970, the Land Court in Rotuma had heard a total of 421
disputes. When there was a problem the Land Court could not solve, the Resident Commissioner on
Rotuma, a British official gave legal advice.

During the British colonial period several courts or advisory councils were established across Fiji
including the Bose Ni Tikina (District Council), Bose Ni Yasana (Provincial Council) and Bose Vakaturaga
(Council of Chiefs). By 2010, the number of courts had multiplied and names often changed. For
example, in 1987 the Supreme Court was renamed as the High Court of Fiji. A new Supreme Court was
created at the same time as the final Court of Appeal in Fiji.

This legal decision making is called the legal system or sometimes the judiciary, (technically ‘judiciary’
only refers to a group of Judges). The Fiji Judicial Department website describes itself in this manner:

The judiciary comprises of Magistrates and Judges who preside in the Magistrates Court, High
Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. The judiciary (was) reformed on the Administration of
Justice Decree 2009 (No 9).The (Judicial Department) comprises of support staff that provide
administrative and logistic support to the Resident Magistrates of the Magistrates Court and
Judges of the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

A government usually has a Judicial Department, and a Ministry of Justice. The Attorney-General heads
the Legal Drafting Section, Law Reform Commission, Law Review Commission, Legal Aid Commission and
the Office of the Solicitor General. In most countries the Law (or Judiciary) is kept very separate from the
parliament and government. The Judges and the Judiciary are therefore said to be “separated” or
independent of whoever is in parliament.

Legal systems differ around the world, and their judgements are often controversial, especially in cases
involving discrimination on the basis of age, gender, religion and civil rights. Fiji like many other nations
has a legal process which has changed over time. For example, civil society organizations are formed,
become very active or at other times are dormant and ineffective.

Nations also sign conventions in which they agree to follow International Law. This includes the
International Court of Justice. The International Criminal Tribunal was established for special events,
such as civil wars and atrocities in Yugoslavia, North and South Sudan and Rwanda.

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.4
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There is also a system of International laws which a nation agrees to obey. The most well-known is the
Law of the Sea, but other international laws include human rights, disarmament, and free passage of
shipping, space craft and access to Antarctica.

A legal system involves a constitution which lists the basic principles of the system. A legal system
includes set of laws, Judges and Magistrates who “hear” cases, lawyers who argue for their clients and in
some cases a jury that is called to hear the evidence and advise the Judge of innocence or guilt.

Legal systems therefore rely on a number of crucial principles.

 Justice for all is one key principle.
 A constitution also states the basic laws by which a government rules the nation and also lists
the rights of citizens.
 Laws also change so there is a constant need for revision and law reform.
 There is also a system of judgment or decision-making.

Fiji has a Supreme Court, a High Court, a Court of Appeal, and a Magistrates Court. Other Courts pass
judgments on special cases such as the Juvenile Court, Family Court, and a Small Claims Tribunal. Fiji’s
legal system is described usually as a common law system based on the English model.

In this unit you will study these legal terms and how courts operate and contribute to Fiji’s legal system.

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Reading 6.1

Court System
Here is the description of Fiji’s legal system from a website by a large firm of lawyers who have worked
in Fiji since the 1930s;
Court systems
Fiji operates a four-level court system. The High Court of Fiji is Fiji’s court of originating
jurisdiction, with a right of appeal available to the Fiji Court of Appeal and a further right of
appeal available, with special leave, to the Supreme Court of Fiji. Less serious criminal
matters, and certain civil matters involving monetary amounts of up to F$50,000, are within
the jurisdiction of the Magistrates Court.
The court system is based upon the English common law system and is adversarial.
The court system is supplemented by a number of specialist courts and tribunals. These

 the Tax Tribunal, which are first-level forums for adjudication of disputes on income
and Value Added Tax,
 the Employment Tribunal, established under the Employment Relations Promulgation,
for resolution of employment disputes,
 the Sugar Industry Tribunal regulates Fiji's pivotal sugar industry,
 the Agricultural Tribunals regulate certain tenant rights relating to agricultural
 the Small Claims Tribunal deals with civil disputes of less than F$5,000 in value.


Activity 6.1

Activity 1 (based on Reading 6.1)

1 List the four major courts in Fiji.


2 Use a dictionary to write a definition of “adversarial”.


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3 List five specialist courts identified in Reading 6.1.


4 Name two other special Courts, not mentioned in Reading 6.1.


5 In Reading 1, the phrase “adjudication of disputes” is used. Check the dictionary for the meaning
of these separate words, then in your own words describe the meaning of this phrase.

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Activity 6.2
Using “Who’s Who in the Local Court (above) to help you sketch the floor plan of a typical
courtroom. I n the space provided below, identify the position of different people mentioned in
the resources above.

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Activity 6.2
Use the humorous cartoon below to answer the questions which follow:



Source: 23873065%252Felib_asscmmglpict000005811682_jpg%3B450%3B337 (cant copy the source )

Activity 1 (based on the cartoon above):

1. Identify the personnel labeled :
A: _____________________________________
C: _____________________________________
D: _____________________________________
E: _____________________________________

2. What do you think the man (B), who has wandered into the courtroom, is asking?

3. State the difference between the role played by the person labeled D and E.

4. Who would normally sit in the two rows of empty seats?


Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.9
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Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption

The Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) was suggested in 1987 but not established
until May 2007. It is a part of the legal system because it is able to receive complaints, and investigate
crimes and corruption within the government’s administration. It can initiate a prosecution.

It is a public organization because it is independent of the government. However, the government can
ask FICAC to investigate crime and corruption within the government. The FICAC can also respond to a
public complaint and start an investigation into the government’s administration.

FICAC has a powerful influence on the legal system because it is a completely independent organization.

The role of legal officers

1. The Prosecutor
The Prosecutor is the State’s chief legal representative in the court. They are lawyers who possess a law
degree, and are recognized as legal professionals by the court. Their job is to represent the state (the
government and society). Prosecutors present the case in a trial against an individual accused of
breaking the law. They become involved in a case once a suspect has been identified and charges are
filed. Prosecutors are subject to a special code of conduct. They are concerned with criminal matters
(they don't work with civil cases such as lawsuits or in the Family Court)

Prosecutor’s role is to:

 convince a judge and a jury that law enforcement has brought the right person to trial
 make accurate and fair summary of the offence, the evidence and the charge
 modify or add charges based on the evidence
 decide to cancel a trial if there is no likelihood of gaining a conviction
 gather evidence independently or rely on law enforcement (police) or other agencies
 be responsible for administering all rules on how evidence is gathered, examined and presented
 ensure all witnesses are available during the trial.

2. Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)

The DPP is appointed, not elected and is subject to varying degrees of control by the Attorney General,
usually by a formal written directive.

The role of the DPP is to

 be the head of the prosecuting authority.
 respond to the police, during the course of the investigation, to advise them on the validity and
accuracy of the evidence.
 represent the government's interest in criminal trials.

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.10
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Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.11
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Sopurce of cartoon:

Activity 6.4

Use the cartoon opposite to answer the questions which follow:

1 In your opinion, which legal officer in the cartoon above has not played their role efficiently?
Give a reason for your answer.
1. Is the Judge correct in “setting him free”? Give a reason.
2. What does the statement “setting him free” mean?
3. When the accused on the left of the cartoon says “Can I keep the money?” what is the
reaction of the officers in the cartoon?

4. In your own opinion, state a reason why the Public Prosecutor failed to show the evidence
proved the accused was guilty. (Use “accuracy” or “validity” in your statement)

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.12
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3. Attorney General (AG)

In Fiji the Attorney General, or AG, is appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.
The AG is the only member of Cabinet, apart from the Prime Minister and Speaker, specifically
mentioned in the Constitution. The AG can take part in Cabinet, and can sit in the Parliamentary sessions
but is not eligible to vote. The AG’s role is to give legal advice to Parliament. The normal practice in Fiji
has been that the AG is also the Minister for Justice. The AG is required to be a qualified lawyer.

The AG’s role is to:

 Be the main legal advisor to the government.
 be responsible for law enforcement and public prosecutions.
 represent the state, especially in criminal prosecution.
 provide essential legal expertise and support to the Parliament including,
o legislative drafting
o legal aid
o “the prerogative of mercy” (advising the President),
o liquor licensing and
o film censorship.
 be responsible for all legal needs of government departments, statutory bodies, and state-
owned enterprises.

4. Ombudsman
The 2013 Constitution in Fiji does not include the office of the Ombudsman. However in most nations an
Ombudsman is appointed for a term of four years by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister,
the Leader of the Opposition and any other leaders of parties in the House of Representatives. The
Ombudsman cannot hold any other public office. The Ombudsman has a significant degree of
independence from the Parliament and the government. The Ombudsman can also begin an
investigation if is invited to do so by any Minister or member of Parliament.

The role of the Ombudsman is to:

 investigate any action taken by any officer or government authority.
 be responsible of investigating breaches of any fundamental rights protected by the
Constitution of Fiji, in relation to the administration.
 represent the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints reported by
 investigate complaints by voters and attempt to resolve them, through recommendations or
 exercise the same powers as the High Court in relation to attendance and examination of

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.13
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Activity 6.5

Use the two topics above to answer these questions

1. Identify the different roles played by the different legal officers mentioned above?


2. A complaint made to the Ombudsman is free of charge. In your opinion why is this

3. In your opinion, should the Ombudsman have the right to punish a government
official found guilty?


4. Complete this table by writing Yes or No in the appropriate column.

Appears In Court Sits in Parliament Acts Independently


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5. Magistrates
Magistrates are officers of the state. They are like a Judge, but work only in the lower Courts.

Their roles are to:

 act fairly and impartially
 listen to the evidence and make a decision on that evidence
 ask questions only to clear up ambiguities.
 issue a search warrant or a warrant for arrest.
 grant bail or remand accused persons in custody pending trial
 check paperwork and deal with bail
 arrange the date for appearance at the Magistrates Court.
 impose 6 months in jail for a single offence and up to 12 months when a defendant is convicted
of two or more offences.

The four resident magistrates who were sworn in by the President, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, (front
row from left, Siromi Dokonivalu Turaga, Charles, Rokowalesi Ratakele, Ro Alivereti Doviverata
Mataitini and Mohammed Saneem at Govenrment House in 2013.

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Activity 6.6

1. Rank in terms of importance, in your opinion, the roles of the magistrate from 1 (most
important) to 6 (least important).
( ) act fairly and impartially
( ) issue warrants
( ) listen to evidence
( ) grant bail
( ) arrange dates for appearance
( ) impose prison sentences

2. Explain your choice of (1) in your own words.


3. Use your dictionary to find out the meaning of these terms and share it in class.

 defendant _______________________________________________________________
 Convicted _______________________________________________________________
 civil action _______________________________________________________________
 anti-social behavior ________________________________________________________

4. Further activity (Group work). Conduct a Role Play on a magistrate court on one of the following
a. Taxi speeding through the intersection hits a woman with a pram.
b. A neighbour’s dog barking all night
c. A parent slaps a child in public and is reported by a concerned citizen.

You may need to carry out further research on the role of courts and the legal system to prepare you for
your role play.

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6. Judges
Judges are entitled to a wide degree of freedom in the way in which he or she conducts proceedings in
the court and deals with cases justly. They must not give legal advice, but may speak in public about the
law and the administration of justice. Judges are regularly asked to chair important public enquiries. The
role of judges is to interpret and uphold the law. This includes:

 To check on the misuse of power

 To conduct judicial review (of the legal system)
 To improve the effectiveness of the justice system
 To sentence an accused person
 To review and correct a sentence imposed by a lower court (Magistrates court)
 To be solely responsible for passing a sentence

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Activity 6.7

1. Define the following terms as used in the text above:
a. Convict: ____________________________________________________________
b. Accused :____________________________________________________________
c. Civil Action:__________________________________________________________
d. Acquitted: ____________________________________________________________
e. Prosecute:___________________________________________________________
2. Identify one difference between a magistrate and a judge.
3. In your opinion, rank the role of judges as the most important (1) and least important (6).
( ) Speak in public about the law
( ) Interpret the law
( ) Conduct a judicial review of the legal system
( ) Pass sentence on the guilty
( ) Chair important public inquiries
( ) Review sentences of the lower courts

4. Explain in your own words why your choice of Number 1 as the most important in Q. 3
5. In your opinion, why are Judges considered important and influential in society?


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6 Solicitors
Solicitors are lawyers but they are not allowed to present arguments in a trial or Court Room. Solicitors
prepare legal documents for their clients, for example;
. business contracts
. sale of land
. transfer of titles
. general advice on legal matters
. marriage contracts
. divorce settlements
. wills
. adoption
. certified documents (Oaths)

Solicitors, Lawyers and Barristers can also be a Commissioner for Oaths.

In the 2013 Fiji Telephone Directory, solicitors are listed under ‘lawyers’. There are about 100 lawyers
listed. In the Telephone Directory, there are also three pages of telephone numbers for ‘Barristers
and/or Solicitors’. The public and community generally use the words solicitor, lawyer and barrister

7 Lawyers

The Ministry of Justice directly supervises the admission, licensing, and regulation of lawyers.
Lawyers have a wide range of responsibilities and duties in the Courts. Their role in society is even more
important as they are acting as a voice for others.

Some lawyers are called Barristers. This means they have been ‘admitted to the Bar’. This allows them to
represent a client in a trial or court room.

In the Court Room the role of lawyers is:

 To defend a person or organization in legal proceedings
 To act on behalf of their client
 To act in a manner which is in their client’s best interest

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Other Roles within the Nation’s Legal System

 Bailiffs
A law officer whose job is to take possessions and property of people who cannot pay their debts as
determined by a Court Order.

 Fiji Police Force

Apprehend criminals, gather evidence and prepare cases to present to the DPP and the Courts.

 Fiji Corrections Service

Ensures that convicted person serve their sentence as determined by the courts

 Military Police
Is independent of the legal system but operates as a legal system within the military service regarding
breaches of military law.

 Official Receiver (Bankruptcy)

A legal officer that examines bankrupt persons under the direction of the Court.

 Registrar of Titles
A legal office that?

 Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages

Keeps an official record of all births, deaths and marriages.

 Justice of the Peace

A legal officer appointed their own community to witness and certify documents.

 Fiji Land and Titles Court

Keeps record and makes judgements on matters affecting land titles (this is a unique and an important
historical part of the legal system)

 Juvenile Courts
It makes judgements on cases related to children (between 13-18 years of age)

 Small Claims Tribunal

It makes judgements on claims less than $5000 such as debt recovery, service charges, damage to
property, consumer claims and work order. The Small Claims Tribunal is important because it enables
citizen to solve legal problems without the high cost and time of going to the court.

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 Family Court
It makes judgements on family laws such as the custody of children and cases related to family and
domestic relationships. The Family Court deals with matters not involving criminal cases. The police will
attend the Family Court only when there is a threat of abuse or violence in the court room.

So, you can see by this list that the legal system in Fiji is very complex and far bigger than just judges and
lawyers in the courtroom. Your teacher might suggest that you carry out an independent individual
research project on any one of the above roles.

System of Courts

The Court system will uphold the principles of equality, fairness and access while protecting the dignity
and rights of all members of the community. The Court system comprises the DPP, Lawyers (Barristers),
Magistrates and Judges who preside in the Magistrates Court, High Court, Court of Appeal, and Supreme

Procedure of a Trial; A Criminal Case

1. Investigation
When a crime is reported, the police are responsible for conducting an investigation. A suspect may be
arrested or issued a citation in lieu of arrest. After completing their investigation, the police submit
their reports to the DPP. The DPP’s Office reviews the case and decides whether to charge an individual
or individuals with a crime. Police officers may also submit an incident report.

Police arriving at a crime scene to carry out

their investigation, 2013.

2. Arrest
When a person is arrested and taken to jail, they may remain in jail until their arraignment or may be
released. If released, the defendant must sign a release agreement. The conditions of the release
agreement include appearing in court as ordered, not leaving Fiji without the permission of the court,
and not having any contact (direct or indirect) with the victim of the crime. The release agreement is in
effect until the court case is concluded.

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Police making their arrests.


3. Filing Criminal Charges

A criminal case begins when the DPP's Office, files a charging document (complaint, information or
indictment) against the defendant.

A crime is a felony if the maximum penalty includes a sentence of more than one year of jail. Common
Felonies include illegal possession, manufacturing and delivery of drugs, robbery, burglary, theft,
identity theft, assault and sexual assault crimes.

A crime is a misdemeanor if the defendant cannot be ordered to serve more than one year in
jail. Common misdemeanors include minor assault, harassment, menacing, minor theft, criminal

4. Arraignment
The arraignment is the first court appearance after a defendant is arrested or issued a citation. At the
arraignment, the defendant is formally advised of the criminal charges filed.

5. Preliminary Hearing
At a preliminary hearing, the DPP must present evidence to the court to show that;
a. a felony has been committed
b. the DPP has sufficient evidence to prosecute the defendant for the offense.
A defendant may waive his right to this hearing and proceed to the next step in the prosecution.

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Court in session.

6. Entering a Plea
If the defendant enters a plea of not guilty, a trial date will be set. It may be several months before a
trial takes place, and the trial may be reset (postponed) more than once. When the case goes to trial,
victims and witnesses will be subpoenaed to testify. If the defendant enters a guilty plea or a no contest
plea, the defendant may be sentenced at the time of the plea, or the sentencing may be scheduled for a
later date if the victims have requested to be present.

7. The Trial
A trial can have a Judge or be decided by a Jury (In Fiji a Jury is referred to “Assessors”). A trial follows an
established sequence.
i. The DPP presents the case
ii. The DPP calls witnesses for the Prosecution
iii. Lawyers for the accused question the prosecution’s witnesses
iv. The lawyers for the accused present their case
v. The lawyers for the accused calls witnesses for the Defense
vi. DPP questions the defense’s witnesses
vii. DPP sums up the case for the Prosecution
viii. Lawyers for the accused sum up the case for the Defense
ix. The Judge instructs the Assessors to make a decision
x. The Jury meets in private to make a decision
xi. Chairperson of the Assessors announces the decision (guilty or not guilty)
xii. Judge considers the case and the assessors decision and announces a verdict (a sentence)
In some trials, the Judge withdraws to consider the case and may not announce a verdict or sentence for
sometimes as long as a month. Trials are a popular topic on television shows and movies. However,
these films and movies are often made in Hollywood or Bollywood and show legal processes that are
different to Fiji’s. The accused can question a court ruling. This is called an appeal system. An appeal is
made to a court of higher authority than the court of the original ruling. (see below under Supreme

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Reading 6.2



1. David Gole
2. Pita Comb
3. Gerald Isa
4. Mosese Hale

Mr. L. Soso for the State

All Accused in Person

Date of Hearing: 01, 02 and 06 June 1968

Date of Sentence: 08 June 1968

[Sacrilege and Arson]

[1] David Gole, Gerald Isa and Mosese Hale, you have been found guilty by this Court after trial of
one charge of sacrilege and one charge of arson. The charges you are convicted of are:

Statement of Offence
SACRILEGE: Contrary to section 298 of Penal Code, Cap. 17.

Particulars of Offence
DAVID GOLE, PITA COMB, GERALD ISA and MOSESE HALE on the 10th day of May 1968, at
Veibitu, broke and entered a place of divine worship namely Veibitu Church and stole therein 2 money
box containing $50.00 cash and a radio valued at $200.00, to the total value of $250.00, the property of
Veibitu Church.

Statement of Offence
ARSON: Contrary to section 317(a) of the Penal Code, Cap. 17.

Particulars of Offence
DAVID GOLE, PITA COMB, GERALD ISA and MOSESE HALE on the 10th day of May 2008, at
Lautoka in the Western Division, willfully and unlawfully set fire to the Veibitu Church, causing damages
to the building and its contents to the value of $80,000.00, the property of Veibitu Church.

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[2] Pita Comb, you entered a plea of guilty to both charges and were convicted before trial.

[3] The facts agreed by you Pita Comb, and brought out at trial are that during the night of 9 and 10
May 2008, the four of you spent the night drinking homebrew and at about 5.00am on the 10th you
went looking for money to buy beer. You approached the Veibitu Church situated in Veibitu and you
used an iron rod to break open the door of the temple and you entered. One of you stood guard at the
door, while the other three went in to the prayer room. The three inside lit candles as it was dark. Two
money boxes containing $50 cash and a portable radio valued at $200 were taken away from the
temple. Before leaving two of you set fire to material in the temple starting a fire. The fire spread
rapidly and photographs exhibited show complete destruction of the temple. All of you were later
arrested and you co-operated with the Police and made admissions in interviews under caution.

[4] David Gole, you are 25 years old and you previously worked as a carpenter. You have been
educated to Form 6 level but unfortunately you have previous convictions for damaging property, and
unlawful use of a motor vehicle. You express remorse and ask for forgiveness and a second chance. Your
parents are unemployed. You are currently serving a term of imprisonment.

[5] Pita Comb, you are 23 years old living with your defacto wife and a 3 year old child. You
previously worked at FSC having left school at Form 3. You are a prisoner serving time for robbery with
violence. You express great remorse for these crimes and ask for forgiveness.

[6] Gerald Isa, you are 21 years old; you previously worked for a swimming pool manufacturer. You
have been educated to Form 3 level. You have no previous convictions or any pending criminal cases.
You tell the Court that, you and your wife are expecting your first child in two months’ time. You ask for
forgiveness and another chance.

[7] The fourth accused has been absent throughout the trial and was not present to mitigate.

[8] Sacrilege is a serious offence. It shows complete disregard for and contempt for other people’s
religious buildings. In Fiji where there are major religious denominations living together, it is most
important that tolerance of each other’s religions and their fixtures be respected and protected. As
Judge Wellings said in the case of Joji Less (1964)“it is an offence far more hurtful to a person than a
theft in a house. Religion and faith are of paramount importance to all our communities. Offenders who
insult the faiths of the community, who fail to show others what they themselves expect to receive
should be given custodial sentences which reflect society’s disapproval of such behaviour”. He went on
to find that 15 months imprisonment was right in principle.

[9] The maximum penalty for sacrilege under the Penal Code is fourteen years imprisonment …. The
four of you, ablaze with home brew (which is no excuse) forced entry into the temple and took away
money boxes containing $50 so that you could buy beer. It is petty theft of monies obviously held dear to
the members of this temple and a gross violation of a religious community’s shrine.

[10] For this offence, I take a starting point of three years imprisonment. Apart from the aggravating
elements of breaking and entering and theft there is nothing further to add. I am aware that you each
played different roles in this affair, but you were all acting in concert and as such you must each bear the

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.25
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responsibility of each other’s actions. You are each sentenced to three years for sacrilege.

[11] The offence of arson is far more serious – it attracts a maximum term of imprisonment of life. In
the case of Joseph (1967) …. Judge Saru took a starting point of 3 years for setting fire to the Community
sheds after a drinking party causing $17,000 worth of damage. The damage done to this temple was in
the region of $80,000. I accept that none of you went to the temple to set fire to it; you merely wanted
more beer money and lighting the fire was afterthought on fleeing the premises. For this offence, I take
a starting point of three years imprisonment and that will be served concurrently with the three years for

[12] David Gole, you do not have the luxury of a clear record to afford you any discount from your
term of three years. Nor do you have any compelling mitigation apart from your expressed remorse and
your wish for forgiveness. For that I deduct 6 months from your sentence meaning you will serve a total
term of two years and six months. You will serve a minimum of twenty months before being eligible for
parole. This term will be served concurrently with the sentence you are currently serving.

[13] Pita Comb, you have the advantage of having entered a plea of guilty, which although at a very
late stage (just before trial) indicates a very real expression of remorse. For that plea and your other
mitigation I deduct one year from your term of three years, meaning you will serve a term of
imprisonment of two years.

[14] Gerald Isa, you have no previous convictions and you are still a young man. You have a new
family to care for. You ask for forgiveness, but you have shown very little remorse. Little purpose will be
afforded to either you or the community if you serve a term of imprisonment at your relatively young
age. I suspend your term of imprisonment of three years for a period of two years. (Suspension

[15] Mosese Hale, you are being sentenced in your absence. You have not been present throughout
your trial, nor have you been able to put your mitigation before the Court. Your sentence of three years
will run from the date you are re-arrested and you will serve a minimum of two years before you are
eligible for parole.

Iliesa Going
At Veibitu
8 June 1968

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.26
Government and Governance

Activity 6.8

Use the reading above to answer the questions below.

1. Use your Dictionary to find out the meanings of these terms in relation to the Legal System and
discuss them in class.
a. Hearing ___________________________________________________________
b. Sentence ___________________________________________________________
c. Sacrilege ___________________________________________________________
d. Arson ___________________________________________________________
e. Charges ___________________________________________________________
f. Penal Code ___________________________________________________________
g. Mitigate ___________________________________________________________
h. Plea ___________________________________________________________
i. Remorse ___________________________________________________________
2. Who are the accused in this criminal case?


3. Name the judge that is in control of this criminal case.


4. Why was David Gole’s sentence deducted for 6 months?


Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.27
Government and Governance

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is the highest court in Fiji. It is also the final Court of Appeal(see diagram on p. 5).

If the accused is unhappy with a Magistrates Court or High Court verdict or sentence, they may present
a case for the trial to be heard again at a higher court. This is called the Court of Appeal.

Other Aspects of the Legal System

Apart from the Courts there are many other individuals and organisation with a direct concern with the
legal process. These organisations and individuals are usually referred to as civil society. They provide
legal advice to citizens, raise awareness on legal issues and provide assistance to victims, prisoners and
former offenders.

(a) Fiji Law Society

This is the official body that registers and regulates the activity of all lawyers in Fiji.

(b) Legal Aid Commission

To provide legal services to those people who are unable to afford the services of a private legal
practitioner. The Legal Aid Commission was established in July 1998. It provides legal representation in
the Court and other related services. The Commission’s Board comprises of the Solicitor-General who is
also the Chairperson, the Chief Registrar, three legal practitioners and two members who are not legal

(c) Fiji Women’s Rights Movement

The Movement is a multiethnic and multicultural non-governmental organisation. It is committed to the
removal of all discrimination against women. Therefore it is an important player in the legal process
because by changing laws they can achieve reforms and attitudinal changes. It lobbies and presents
issues to the Fiji Government and to the United Nations. It promotes legal issues in relations to:
 feminism,
 democracy,
 the rule of law
 good governance
 Human rights.
 Multi-ethnicity (multiculturalism)
 Healthy environment
The Fiji Women’s Rights Movement often signs Legal Documents and International Treaties and
Conventions related to women’s rights on behalf of the Fiji Government.

(d) Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre

The Fiji Women's Crisis Centre (FWCC) is directly involved in the legal process by providing legal support
for women and children who suffer of violence. The Centre's work addresses legal matters related to

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.28
Government and Governance

violence against women including rape, beating, sexual harassment and abuse of children.
It was established in 1984.

(e) Fiji Human Rights Commission

Fiji Human Rights Commission was established in 1999 to protect and promote human rights for the
people of Fiji. It is important in the legal process because it offers free legal advice on alleged violation
of human rights such as child labor, human trafficking, child abuse, corporal punishment and parental
negligence. The FHRC investigates allegations. It’s Legal Division prepares a case for presentation to the
Courts or refers the case to relevant government departments. The FHRC conducts regular visits to
schools upon invitation to run awareness programs.

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.29
Government and Governance

Activity 6.9

1. Briefly state the purpose of each of the organisations mentioned above.

1. ______________________________________________________

2. Group Research: choose one of the organisations listed above and find out more about their:
Past activities
Current activities

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.30
Government and Governance

In this unit you have examined the complex links between the courts, the constitution, human rights,
and crime, the law, law reform and courtroom trials. This unit has included both national decision-
making and matters of immediate and personal concern to private citizens. Most citizens know there is a
‘court” which can make a judgment if they are worried about the law, for example;
 new law
 government policy or decree
 being accused of a crime
 want to challenge a land lease
 get your money back from a dishonest trader
 get a divorce
 decide on the parentage of a child.
 And other legal problems

Most people also know what the law is and how a Judge decided in an earlier case. Judges follow the
decision of earlier court cases. Judges use these cases, evidence, verdicts and punishments as a guide.
This is called legal precedent.

You have also examined how the law is revised, reformed and how all citizens can obtain fair and just
treatment before the courts.

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.31
Government and Governance

People accused of a crime or in a dispute are advised to hire a lawyer, make an appeal and “take it to
court”. The media keeps us informed about court decisions that change the way we drive, walk across
the street, pay taxes or apply for promotion at work. The phrase, “the law” is often used. Most people
associate “the law” with crime, but as we have seen in this unit, the legal system has many different
applications in society.

Do all Fiji’s citizens really understand how “the law” works?

Controversial court cases about extreme cases of corruption, cruelty or violence, as well as film and
television have made some lawyers and judges into celebrities. The continual release of new films and
television series based on crime, legal firms and courtroom proceedings are always far away from the
USA, Britain, or elsewhere.

This unit ends by asking how Fijians can learn best about their own legal system.

End of the Unit Activity

Teacher to organize a role play on the process of a trial concerning a neighbor who stole 10 sacks
mangoes from a truck parked at a petrol station.
While organizing the role play, the teacher needs to ensure that the students have to be clear of the
roles of all Court Officials, police, eye witnesses, lawyers, character referees, and civil society advocates
as well as others, such as media reporters who are part of the trial.

They can do the role play a second time when all the actors will switch roles, (for example, the
prosecution becomes the defense or the Judge becomes an eye witness or the accused) so that they will
have a better understanding of the unit.

Suggested further activities

2. Research activity: Go to the website of the Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute, known as
PACLii. It has links to many aspects of Fiji’s legal system. Make a short summary of what one of
these links tells you about Fiji’s legal system and then report back to class. Go to:
3. Activity 6.2 (to be moved here)
4. Debate; your teacher will organize the teams and the organization of the debate on the topic, ‘A
person is innocent until proven guilty’. Team A argues that a person is innocent until proven guilty
and Team B argues that ‘a person is guilty as charged until proven innocent’.

Court The building, hall, or room in which such cases are heard and determined
Justice The upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance
with honor, standards, or law.

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.32
Government and Governance

Appeal The judicial review by a superior court of the decision of a lower court
Legal Officer a public official employed to administer or advise in legal matters
Law The system of rules which a nation or community recognizes as regulating the actions
of its members and which it may enforce by the imposition of penalties
Civil Society Non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations that express the interests and
values of their members or others, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientific,
religious or philanthropic considerations.
Trial Examination of evidence and law by a court to determine the charges or claims
Judiciary A system of courts of law for the administration of justice

Common Law
Legal system
Civil rights
Complaint an allegation that some person known or unknown has committed or is guilty of an
felony if the maximum penalty includes a sentence of more than one year of jail
Police Officer includes any member of the Royal Fiji Police Force;
Preliminary Investigation - an investigation of a criminal charge held by a magistrates' court with a view
to the committal of the accused person for trial before the Supreme Court;
Summary Trial a trial held by a magistrates' court under Part VI.
Legal precedent When Judges follow the decision of earlier court cases. Judges use these cases,
evidence, verdicts and punishments as a guide
misdemeanor if the defendant cannot be ordered to serve more than one year in jail.

Optional Essay Questions

With reference to Fiji’s legal system, differentiate between the traditional system of law before 1875
and the modern system of law since 1970 under the following headings;
a. Who investigates the case?
b. Who makes the decision?
c. Opportunities of appeal?

Imagine a citizen has burnt down a bus stop; describe how the legal system would deal with the
allegations and criminal proceedings? Mention as many aspects of the legal process as you can.
Discuss why an accused would choose to take his or her case to the Court of Appeal. Mention the
process including evidence, penalties, fairness and the severity of the verdict.

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.33
Government and Governance

Analyze the effectiveness of Fiji’s four major courts system.

Typical Exam Questions

Differentiate between the roles of a Lawyer/Barrister and a Solicitor in the Legal System.
Name Fiji’s current Attorney General and mention one of their roles.

Selected References

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.34
Government and Governance


Are you able to identify the different courts?

Yes No
Do you have an understanding of Fiji’s legal system?

Yes No
Are you able to define the roles of Magistrates and judges?

Yes No

Can you describe the skills the lawyers need?

Yes No

Could you describe and follow through the processes involved during a trial?

Yes No
Are you familiar with the appeal process?

Yes No

If you have checked yes for all these questions, you may proceed to the next term’s work. If not, go
through this unit again.

Unit 6: Fiji’s Legal System 6.35