a project of the USP Law Clinic
*This page has now
been superseded by the new website for the
University of the South Pacific Community Legal Centre .
Please update your links.
Table of Contents
What is Law?
Understanding your Constitution
Your right to vote
Freedom of religion and worship
Making a complaint to the Ombudsman
Your lawyer – the Public Solicitor
Your rights in police custody
A complete guide to the Magistrates Court
Child abuse in Vanuatu
Applying for a domestic violence protection order
Disabled people’s rights under international law
Why go to Court? Try negotiation
Your guide to VAT in Vanuatu
What is Law?
Law can be described as the rules of human behaviour. Law is concerned with
· relations between people, and the
· freedoms, and
· obligations of human beings.
Laws are basically rules for the control and guidance of human behaviour, just like the rules of sport. Imagine how sports such as netball, rugby, football or boxing would continue if there were no agreed rules for players to abide by, no authority to create rules where they were needed, and no referees to enforce those rules in the interest of order and fair play.
Without rules and referees, unfairness, disorder and even violence might result in any sport.
This is the same in a society without law.
What kinds of laws are there?
There are different types of law, and different ways in which laws can be made.
Law is concerned with both criminal and civil matters.
The criminal law is a set of rules relating to the relationship
between the State (the country of
Civil laws are rules to control the behaviour of people towards each other. They are concerned with things like contracts, property, family matters, business and employment. If you break a civil law, you can be taken to court by the person who has been affected by your behaviour. You can be made to pay compensation if you break a civil law.
Where does law come from?
· The Constitution
· The “common law”, or the Courts; and
The Constitution of Vanuatu is the “mother law” - the highest law in
Written at the time of
If any law is made or action taken that goes against what the Constitution says, then it is illegal and has no effect.
Most of the laws in
Legislation is not permanent like the Constitution; it can be changed or removed by Parliament.
Where the Vanuatu Parliament has not passed a law on a particular area,
the laws that applied before
Laws can also come from “sub-legislation”. This is where the Parliament has passed legislation that allows a government body or authority to make its own regulations and by-laws about certain things. Those regulations then do not have to be passed by Parliament itself in order to become law.
The Common Law or Courts
The role of
the Courts is to look at the laws of
Sometimes when judges in Court have to decide a case, there is nothing in the legislation or the Constitution which tells them what the law actually is for that situation. When this happens, they use previous decisions of Courts in similar cases to fill in the gaps and help them make a decision. The law that comes from these earlier cases is called the “common law”.
Customary laws continue to be part of the law in
How is Law enforced?
Law is enforced by the Police and the Courts.
The main duty of the Police is to maintain law and order in society. They have special powers that allow them to protect people and their property and arrest those who break the criminal law. People who commit crimes are charged with an offence and then taken to Court.
The Courts enforce the law by deciding if there has been a breach of the relevant laws, and if so, what the penalty, sentence or compensation should be. The Court can also order someone to do or stop doing something or to act or stop acting in a certain way.
If a Court orders you to go to prison, to pay money, to do community service or any other thing, you must do it, or the Police can arrest you for not doing so.
Want to Know More?
You can find out more about the law from:
The University of the South Pacific Law Library
The State Law Office
The Judicial Services Commission
If you have a legal problem and can’t afford a lawyer, contact:
The Public Solicitor
What is the Constitution?
Constitution is the most powerful law in
three ways to become a citizen of
Firstly, if you are a person of ni-Vanuatu ancestry
(that is, if someone in your family is or was in the past ni-Vanuatu),
you can automatically become a citizen of
Secondly, anyone whether in
Thirdly, a person can become a citizen by naturalisation.
This means you can become a citizen of
But, the Constitution does not
recognize dual nationality. What this means is that a person cannot have
two citizenships. So under the Constitution, if you are a citizen of another
country then you cannot become a citizen of
The fundamental rights set out our
basic rights as individuals, whatever our race, gender, colour, sexual
orientation, birth, ethnicity, age, economic status, place of origin or mother tongue. These rights are recognised as
everybody’s due – and the state must guarantee these rights to all guests and citizens of
No one has the right to take away your life.
Freedom from Inhumane Treatment and Forced Labour
Your labour is yours to give or sell, but you must not be forced to work or be held in slavery.
As a worker you have the right to fair labour practices including humane treatment and proper working conditions.
Freedom of Conscience and Worship
You have the right to believe whatever you want and to follow whatever religion you choose. You can practice your religion in private, as well as in public. Any religious body can spread its religion through education, but this freedom may be limited to protect the rights and freedoms of other people. You cannot be forced to participate in a religious function, and you cannot be forced to swear an oath in a religion that you do not believe in.
Everyone has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. You cannot be discriminated against because of your race, colour, where you came from, gender, language, beliefs or opinions, as long as those beliefs do not harm others or their rights and freedoms. You have the right to enter shops, hotels, lodges, restaurants and travel in public transport such as taxis and buses.
Remember, these fundamental rights are to be exercised properly by individuals so that they don’t interfere with other people’s rights or the law.
It should be noted that there are more fundamental rights than mentioned here. See Part 1, Chapter 2 of the Constitution for more fundamental rights.
The National Council of Chiefs
The National Council of Chiefs is made up of custom chiefs. The functions of the council are to discuss all matters relating to custom and tradition.
It may make recommendations for the preservation and promotion of ni-Vanuatu culture and languages. The Council may also be consulted on any question, particularly any question in relation to tradition and custom in connection with any proposed law being looked at by Parliament.
The 3 Branches of the Government
Constitution gives the power to the Parliament (whose members are voted for by
the people) to make laws for the peace, order and good governance of
Since the Parliament is elected through national elections, it includes an element of proportional representation, which ensures fair representation of different political groups and opinions, power-sharing and collective decision-making.
The President, the Prime Minister and Cabinet (the Council of
Ministers, who are appointed by the Prime Minister) make up the Executive
branch of Government in
The judicial power of the State is given to
the various courts – the
This brochure introduces to you just some of the fundamental aspects of the Constitution. It is a foundation for you in understanding your Constitution. Use it as a tool to try and understand your Constitution better. So go on, read the Constitution to find out why it is such an important document…all the best!!!
What is a vote?
Who can vote?
You have the right to
Registration is carried out each year from January to April. To register to vote, you must sign a form given to you by an electoral officer. You will then be added to the electoral list for your area where you live. This area is called your polling district. You will also be given an electoral card.
Between the 1st - 15th June of each year, there is an inspection period for the electoral lists. You should make sure you check that your name has been added. If it has been left off by mistake, you can tell the electoral officer and they will add your name to the list.
The electoral list for the National elections is the same as the list for the Municipal or Provincial elections in your area.
When you register your name to vote, you will be given an electoral card. The electoral card is used as proof of your identification to vote. You are not allowed to give the card to another person to use it on your behalf.
In Port Vila, you can register at the electoral office in town. In the provinces, Electoral Officers will visit your village during the registration period so that you are registered to vote.
Where there is doubt about which area or polling district you live in, the registration officer will find out so that your name can go on the list to vote in the right polling district.
If you have moved to a polling district that is outside the area for which you have registered, you can ask the registration officer to register you to vote in the polling district where you are now living.
Voting is done at polling stations. There are polling stations in each electoral district. You are only allowed to vote at the polling station in the district where you are registered to vote.
What if I am unable to vote on election day?
If you are going to be out of your electoral district or unable to make it to the polling station on election day, you can authorise someone else to vote for you. This is called a proxy vote. If you need a proxy vote you can pick up a form at an electoral office. You should only choose someone you can trust to vote the way you want to be your proxy.
If you are living
How do I vote?
At the polling station, the polling clerks will read out your name to observers. The observers will make sure you are the person it says on your electoral card before you can cast your vote. To vote, simply select the piece of paper with the name of the person you want to vote for printed on it, and place it in the box. Do not mark or write on the paper - this will mean that your vote will not be counted.
You cannot have more than one vote, or vote for more than one person at the same time.
Is my vote a secret?
Yes. Every polling station is provided with secret ballots, so you can cast your vote without anyone knowing how you voted. No-one can force you to tell them how you voted, or make you vote a certain way.
It is against the law to vote:
· at an election where you are not entitled to vote;
· more than once at an election;
· at a polling station where you are not entitled to vote
· By proxy for anyone, if you know that the person who you are voting for has already voted or is no longer eligible to vote or is dead.
It is also against the law for a candidate (someone running for election) to directly or indirectly give or offer you money or any item to vote for him or her. If you find this going on, you should report it to the Electoral Office with evidence to support your claim.
Anyone committing any of these offences can be fined up to 50,000vt or be sent to prison for up to five years.
The Principal Electoral Officer
Ministry of Home Affairs
What is Freedom of Religion?
Freedom of religion is the right to follow any religion to or join any religious group you choose.
It is also called the freedom of conscience and worship, and means you can make up your own mind about what religion you want to be a part of, and how you wish to practice that religion.
No one can force you to follow their religion or discriminate against your rights and freedoms because of what you believe.
What kinds of religion can I practice?
“Religion” means all kinds of religion. You are free to practice Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Baha’i, customary beliefs or any other religion you like, as long as practising your religion does not interfere with the laws of Vanuatu.
You can choose to follow any particular branch of a religion, and the place you want to attend. You are also free to have no religion at all.
Where does freedom of religion come from?
The right to freedom of religion, conscience and worship is given by
the Constitution of
What is the Constitution?
The Constitution is the highest law of
How does the Constitution guarantee freedom of religion?
The Constitution guarantees the rights and freedoms of individuals in
The Constitution protects freedom of religion in 2 ways.
Firstly, one of the fundamental rights listed in Article 5(1)(f) of the Constitution is the “freedom of conscience and worship”.
Secondly, Article 5 (1) of the Constitution also says
This means that, no matter what your religion, no one can deny you any of the other fundamental rights and freedoms listed in the Constitution, such as
the right to life
the right to liberty
freedom of movement
freedom to meet with whoever you like; or
the right to protection from the law
because of the religion you follow.
Does a Custom Chief have the power to restrict or do away with your religious beliefs?
No. A custom chief from any community in
Majority and minority religious groups: Can a person join any of them?
Everyone is free to join any religious group, whether the group is the main religion (majority) or a small religion (minority) in the community. All groups, even minorities, are protected by the Constitution. The majority group has a duty under the law to respect the rights and freedoms of all minority groups and individuals.
Can Bishops, Priests or Custom Chiefs use ordinary people to assault the members of a particular religion?
Religious and traditional leaders have no right to order anyone to assault or brutalise members of a religion.
If anyone assaults or orders someone to assault you to stop you from practising your religion, they are breaking the law. This is a crime as well as a breach of your religious freedom, and should be reported to the Police.
Can my family stop me from going to a certain religion?
No one has the right to stop any one else from exercising their freedom under the law, not even parents or other relatives.
Are there any particular
No. Any person is free to worship in any religion, anywhere in
What can I do if my Constitutional rights and freedoms are not respected or are broken?
You can apply to the Supreme Court to enforce your rights under the Constitution.
The Court can order the breach of your rights to stop, and for compensation to be paid where it considers it is appropriate.
See a lawyer or, if you can’t afford one, the Public Solicitor’s Office can help you.
For More Information Contact:
The Public Solicitor’s Office
Off Rue Pasteur
(next to Caillard & Kaddour)
Who is the Ombudsman?
The Ombudsman is the person who watches over the affairs of the government and its agencies and investigates complaints made against the conduct of government agencies.
Who can complain to the Ombudsman?
Any member of the public has the right to make a complaint where he or she has been the victim of an injustice as a result of a particular action or inaction of a government agency.
Who can you complain against?
You can make a complaint against:
An employee, member or agent of a government agency
A local government
A municipal council
A department of the government, local government or municipal council
A ministerial department – e.g. ministry of health
A public authority – e.g. hospital
A state service – e.g. police force
body supported by public money of
A body where the members who hold the authority are appointed by the President, the Council of Ministers or a Minister
A company registered under the Companies Act and in which the government has an interest
Any bodies established by law and which the President, with the advice of the Council of Ministers declare to be a government agency
Any leader who failed to carry out the duties and responsibilities imposed on him or her
Who can’t you make a complaint against?
The Ombudsman CANNOT enquire into a complaint that you make against the conduct of –
Judicial Services Commission
The Supreme Court
Other judicial bodies
Private individuals, bodies or organisations
What can you complain about?
You can complain about an action or inaction of any government agency.
Improper appointments like not consulting the Teaching Service Commission when appointing teachers.
Non-payment of allowances, for instance - housing allowances
The action or inaction of the police. For example – police brutality or assault or where the police delay the investigation of a complaint made to them.
A leader who fails to file his or her annual return or uses the office for personal gain.
Can the Ombudsman refuse to investigate my complaint?
YES! The Ombudsman may refuse to investigate a complaint if:
The complaint is unreasonable or without foundation;
The person complaining has not made his or her complaint to the appropriate government agency first before going to the Ombudsman;
The person complaining doesn’t show enough interest in the complaint;
There is a long delay before a complaint is made;
The complaint has already been dealt with by the Ombudsman; or
The complaint is not worth considering because it would be a waste of time, effort and resources to enquire into the complaint.
How does the Ombudsman deal with my complaint?
The Ombudsman will write to the government agency concerned and inform it of the complaint.
An enquiry will be made into the complaint where necessary. This involves gathering information and evidence, and then compiling a report on findings of the enquiry.
Attempt is made to find ways of resolving the complaint
MEDIATION is a means of resolving a complaint. Mediation involves the presence of an impartial third party who has the role of helping parties towards settling a dispute.
In this case, the Ombudsman is the impartial third party. He or she will get the interested parties to a complaint together and try to help the parties to solve the problem.
If all means of resolving the complaint have been tried without success, then the Ombudsman will issue a public report on the matter.
How do I lodge a complaint?
You can make a complaint by:
Filling out a complaint form which can be obtained from the office of the Ombudsman;
Writing a letter to the Ombudsman, giving detailed information about the complaint and what you want the Ombudsman to do for you;
Making a complaint by telephone or
Visiting the Office of the Ombudsman and speaking with the Ombudsman or an investigator.
Where can I get further information about lodging a complaint to the Ombudsman?
Visit or contact your nearest Ombudsman’s Office :
Telephone : 36364
Who is the Public Solicitor?
The Public Solicitor is the lawyer paid by the government to provide legal assistance to the public
Who can the Public Solicitor help?
· any “needy person”
· any person when told to by the Supreme Court
Who is a “needy person”?
· a person whose income cannot afford a lawyer; or
· a person who commits a serious offence
Who can help you?
· there are three qualified lawyers to help you at the Public Solicitor’s Office
What kind of legal problems are covered?
· personal injury
· matrimonial proceedings / family
· insurance and other legal matters
What kind of services does the Public Solicitor provide?
· drafting statements of claim
· writing letters
· going to court
· negotiating to settle your case out of court
When can’t the Public Solicitor help you?
· If the Public Solicitor’s Office is already acting for the other party to your dispute
What are the procedures for filing a case?
· make an enquiry at the office
· fill in a means and merit form to see if you qualify for assistance
Who to contact?
· make enquiries to the secretaries by phone; or
· drop by the office to make an appointment
How is your application for assistance assessed?
· on an individual basis according to the income that you earn and whether you can afford a lawyer or not
What happens if you are not considered a “needy person”?
· the Public Solicitor will advise you of further possible avenues, even if he cannot represent you
Is there a cost?
· Section 7 of the Public Solicitor’s Act states that the Public Solicitor may levy a reasonable charge for his services.
· A sum of VT1,000 is charged for the assistance of the Public Solicitor
What time is best to visit the Public Solicitor?
· law clinic advice sessions are held fortnightly on Fridays from to . You do not need an appointment to attend these sessions.
there any other offices in
· a monthly visit is made by one of the legal officers to Santo
· a visit is also made once a year by one of the legal officers to Tanna
Phone: 36457 Fax: 36059
Tafea Provincial Council / Tanna Local Government
Phone: 68664 Fax: 68638
Where is the Public Solicitor’s Office?
Off Rue Pasteur
(next to Caillard & Kaddour)
Office Hours: (Mon-Fri)
If you are arrested by the Police and held at the Police station, this is called being held in “custody”. There are certain rights that you have if you are being held in custody.
Q. How long can I be held in Police Custody?
If you are arrested by the Police in
In deciding what a reasonable amount of time is, the Police must take into account things like your age and any physical or mental disabilities. The Police can also take into account the amount of time they need to prepare any questions that they need to ask you.
Q. Can the Police hold me in custody any longer than 24 hours without charging me?
In special cases, the Police can hold you in custody for longer than 24 hours. An example of a special case may be a murder or rape offence.
If the Police want to hold you for longer than 24 hours, they need an order from a Magistrate or an authorised Justice of the Peace.
A Magistrate or authorised Justice of the Peace will only give permission to hold you in custody for longer than 24 hours if:
The Police are conducting their investigation efficiently and without delay, and
The extension of your time in custody is necessary to complete the Police investigation, and
There is no other necessary way of completing the investigation without holding you in custody for a longer period of time, and
In the circumstances, the Police can’t complete their investigation within 24 hours.
What other rights do I have if I am in Police Custody?
You have the right to:
Be cautioned and told your rights by the Police Custody Manager as soon as you arrive at the Police Station
Contact a friend, relative or guardian
Contact a lawyer
Have your lawyer with you when you are being questioned by the Police and during the investigation
Silence (not to say anything)
Not to be forced to say anything
Not to be threatened or beaten
Receive medical assistance
Get food and water (only what is reasonable though); and
Have access to washing and toilet facilities
The Police Custody Manager must keep a record of your time in custody which sets out everything that has happened to you while you are there. The Custody Manager must give you a copy of the report when you are released from custody.
What about people who are vulnerable while in custody?
The law says that special protection is to be given to people in custody who are ‘vulnerable’.
This includes children, people with an intellectual or physical disability and people of non-English speaking backgrounds.
Vulnerable people in custody have the right to
have a support person with them during investigation, and
have their vulnerable status taken into account before a detention warrant is issued.
For a child who is aged 15 or less, a parent or guardian must be present when questioned. This rule can be waived for children between the ages of 15 – 18, but only if the child understands what is happening.
For people aged 18 or above, parents do not have to be present when questioning takes place.
Who can I talk to if I have a problem in custody?
The Ombudsman’s Office
Ph: (678) 27200 / 26757
Fax: (678) 27140
The Public Solicitor’s Office
(Off Rue Pasteur)
Ph: (678) 23450
Fax: (678) 23451
If you are a prisoner it is important that you know your rights. This is because even though some of your rights are restricted while you are a prisoner, most of your fundamental rights are still protected under the law. To be a prisoner does not mean that all your rights are taken away from you.
What are rights?
Rights are interests recognized and protected by the law that everyone must obey. A failure to recognize someone’s rights is against the law.
What laws protect my rights in prison?
Under international law your rights are protected in the United Nations Principles for the Protection of all Persons Under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment. This convention gives you the right to be treated like a human being.
As citizens of
(c) security of the person
(d) protection of the law
(e) freedom from inhuman treatment and forced labour; and
(f) freedom of conscience and worship
The Prisoner’s Administration Act
This is a special law that deals specifically with your rights as prisoners. This law gives you the rights listed below.
What type of treatment can I expect from Prison Officers?
To be discharged on the right date
To be treated fairly and with humanity
Not to be punished by any prison officer except on the authority of the Superintendent
Not to be struck by a prison officer except in self-defence or in the case of violence or attempted escape on your part as a prisoner
Can Prison Officers employ me?
No prison officers are allowed to employ you as domestic servants or otherwise except for the purpose of maintaining the prison area or facilities or as instructed by official superiors.
What happens when I am released from prison?
When you are released you are entitled to have your clothes and other property returned
The government must pay for you to be returned to your village
How many meals should I have in a day?
You are entitled to 3 meals each day -breakfast, dinner, and supper.
Who pays for my meals and clothing in prison?
Your food rations, clothing, bedding, soap, medicines, medical stores and medical treatment of prisoners are paid for by the government.
What type of work must I do and how long can I be made to work in a day?
Whenever an officer in charge gives a duty or task to you, they must take into account your physical ability.
You are not to work more than 10 hours in a day unless you have breached one or more of the prison offences.
How much exercise can I get in a day?
If you are not doing hard labour in the open then you have the right to exercise 2 hours in the open air every day
What if I get sick?
If you appear to be suffering from any serious ailment you have the right, wherever possible, to be examined as quickly as possible by a medical officer or other doctor approved by the Minister. The instructions of the doctor must be followed.
As prisoners you have the right to have in your prison a stock of medicines and dressings for the treatment of minor ailments and for first aid treatment
If I have a problem, how do I make a complaint?
If you have a complaint you have the right to write to the Superintendent, or any person authorized to inspect your prison. If you cannot write ask the officer in charge to assist you.
Is my behavior and work taken into account?
Yes. Each prisoner has the right to have a report on their work and conduct given to the Minister by the Superintendent. This allows the Minister to decide whether a prisoner’s sentence should be reduced.
A report has to be made:
(a) for prisoners serving a term of more than 1 year: on the first of January of each year
(b) for prisoners serving a term of less than 1 year and more than 6 months: when half of the sentence has been completed.
What if I think my rights have been breached?
If you feel that your rights have been breached you can contact the officer in charge. If you think that the breach is serious you can write a letter of complaint to the Superintendent describing your problem.
What happens if the Superintendent does not solve my problem?
If the superintendent does not deal with your complaint or you are not satisfied with the response you may write a letter of complaint to the Prison Visiting Commission, where your complaint should be resolved.
If the Prison Visiting Commission cannot resolve your complaint, they must seek advice from:
· The Police Commissioner
· The Minister in charge of Prisons; or
· The Ombudsman
For more information please contact:
P M B 014
The Ombudsman’s Office
P M B 081
Ministry of Home Affairs
P M B 036
A COMPLETE GUIDE TO THE
For People Charged with a Criminal Offence
What is the Magistrate’s Court?
The Magistrate’s Court deals with criminal proceedings for offences with a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison. Although the Magistrates Court also hears civil matters as well, this brochure only deals with criminal proceedings in the Magistrate’s Court.
The Start of Proceedings
Why am I going to Court?
In most cases, criminal court proceedings begin when someone has claimed that they have seen you committing a crime and a charge has been laid against you.
These charges are set out by a prosecutor (usually the Police) in an “information” that is then brought before a Judicial Officer (Magistrate or judge) who can either issue:
A warrant for the police to arrest and bring you before the court ; or
A summons informing you of
the charge made against you and telling you to appear in the
In some cases, a police officer may arrest an alleged offender without a warrant if the officer witnessed the crime. In these cases the police must either:
Lay charges against the person and either release them or bring them before a judicial officer to keep them in police custody; or
Release them if they have insufficient evidence.
Do I have to go to Court?
Yes. If you don’t appear to answer to a summons, the judge can order the police to arrest you to bring before the court.
Preparing for Court
What do I need to know?
As much as possible. Find out all the information you can about what it is you have been accused of doing. Start by reading the Summons carefully.
Am I the person named in the summons?
There might be another person with a similar name to yours living in the same area and the police might have made a mistake (you never know).
Do I need a lawyer?
This depends on how serious the matter is. If the matter is a minor traffic offence then there may be no need. If the charge is serious then it’s best to get legal advice. If you can’t afford a lawyer then you should see the Public Solicitor who can help you for a small fee.
Where is the Courtroom?
Check the summons for where you are supposed to appear. If you don’t know where it is then ask a friend or call either the Justice Department or the nearest police station for advice.
The Actual Trial
The first time that you go to court is usually just to check whether you agree or disagree to the charges.
Who will be in Court?
Treat this person with respect. The Magistrate will run your court case and will either pass sentence on you or acquit you. Remember, The Magistrate is there to see you get a fair trial. He or she is NOT your enemy.
The Court Clerk
The court clerk handles all the administrative work in the court room. He or she ensures that all the relevant files are in order and are ready for the Magistrate to use.
The Prosecutor is acting on behalf of the government and will be trying to prove the charges against you.
When you go to court for your trial these are some basic “do’s and don’ts”. Remember, the Magistrate is human as well and will react to how you present yourself.
· Be late - the trial might have all ready finished and you could be in trouble
· Interrupt the Magistrate. When the Magistrate talks, make sure you listen very carefully.
· Question the Magistrate or say that he or she is unfair.Remember, the Magistrate will make sure that you are given a fair chance to defend yourself.
· Wear sunglasses, a hat or chew gum or food in court. You will be asked to remove these as they show disrespect for the Magistrate.
· Be untruthful or try to hide things. It is always best to be honest. It is a crime to lie in Court under oath. If you tell a lie and are discovered, you could be punished.
· Tell jokes. Going to court is a serious occasion. The Magistrate does not want to hear what your latest joke is. Moreover, he or she has probably heard it before!!
Dress neatly. This is your first sign of respect for the Magistrate and the
Court System. Remember, the Magistrate is acting on behalf of the people of
· Give straight-forward answers. Magistrates do not like people who give vague answers or try to avoid answering the question.
· Be honest. Honesty is always the best policy.
· Be polite
If you have hired a lawyer, then he or she will guide you through the trial. However, if you don’t have a lawyer then below is a general guideline.
When your name is called by the court clerk, approach the dock. This is a special box where you stand during the trial. You will be asked whether it is your name in the summons, and then you will asked if you admit or deny the charge made against you - that is, whether you plead guilty or not guilty.
Everyone has a right to plead ‘not guilty’. You also have the right to silence or to not give evidence after you have made your plea. You will not be punished for doing so. It is the job of the prosecution to prove you are guilty and not for you to prove your innocence.
If you plead ‘guilty’ then the prosecutor will not provide any evidence against you. The Magistrate will convict you and sentence you. Only plead guilty if you agree that you have committed the offence that you have been charged with.
If you plead ‘not guilty’ then the court will go ahead with the trial.
The Public Prosecutor will begin by presenting his or her evidence and arguments to the court. They will call witnesses to try and prove that you committed the crime. After they question each witness you or your lawyer will have a chance to ask that witness questions.
After the prosecution has given their evidence you can then make your arguments to the Court in your defence. Remember, you do not have to give evidence if you choose not to.
If there are any new matters raised in your evidence then the prosecutor will have another chance to ask witnesses to answer the evidence that you have given.
When all the evidence and arguments have been presented, the Magistrate will decide whether you are guilty or not.
If you are acquitted then you will be released. This means you were found not guilty and you can never be charged with this matter again. If you are found guilty then you will be convicted of the charge and sentenced.
The sentence is the punishment that the Magistrate imposes upon people found guilty of an offence. It could be either a:
· Prison sentence
· Community Service Order
Sometimes the Courts will give a suspended sentence. This is where you are sentenced to prison but don’t actually have to go to prison unless you re-offend within a certain time.
Each criminal offence has a maximum statutory punishment that cannot be exceeded in sentencing. This means that you cannot be fined more or go to prison for longer than the law says.
A point to consider is that there are several factors that can sometimes affect the sentence given by a judge such as:
· The offender’s guilty plea
· The offender’s personal circumstances
· Evidence of the offender’s good character
· Custom apology
· The offender’s preference for one type of punishment.
Remember, you have the right to appeal both your conviction and your sentence if you feel they are unfair. If you do so, the appeal will be heard in the Supreme Court of Vanuatu.
Who can I contact for help?
The Public Solicitor’s Office
Off Rue Pasteur
(next to Caillard & Kaddour)
Judicial Services Department
It’s a Crime
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic Violence is violence that takes place in the home. It is an assault or a threat against you by someone you live with. This can be your husband, boyfriend or other member of the family.
What is an assault?
Punching, hitting, slapping, pushing, biting, kicking, shoving, burning, pulling hair, twisting arms, legs or neck, choking, bending back fingers, etc.
What is a threat?
Damaging property or pets, for example, damaging furniture to frighten the victim. It can be holding a knife, stick, or stone to cause fear. A threat can be anything that makes you feel frightened for your safety or the safety of others.
What are the types of domestic violence?
Domestic violence can be physical, such as hitting, kicking or burning. It can also be sexual, for example forcing a wife to have sex without her consent.
It can be emotional or social abuse, such as constant criticism of the wife or stopping her from meeting her friends. It can even be economic abuse, where the husband stops the wife from working or doesn’t give her any money.
What causes domestic violence?
Usual causes include drinking, jealousy, money, sex, gambling, problems at work, or any kind of domestic argument. It can also be caused by the unequal position of wife and husband, stress, lack of communication between husband and wife, or culture.
Remember, whatever the reason for the violence, there is never an excuse.
Is domestic violence a crime?
Yes. Hitting someone you live with is a serious crime
under the Penal Code of
Domestic violence is in breach of fundamental rights and freedoms in the Constitution too.
What is wrong with domestic violence?
Domestic violence hurts everyone - the victim, children, the person who assaulted you, family members, their community and society as a whole.
What are the effects of domestic violence on the victim?
Physical: Injuries range from cuts, black eyes, burns and broken bones, to injuries inside the body and brain damage such as loss of memory or damage to eyes and ears. In the worst cases, domestic violence can result in the death or suicide of the victim.
Mental: A woman’s love for her husband or boyfriend changes into fear, confusion, loss of confidence in herself, and feelings of helplessness and depression.
Social: A victim’s work performance may suffer, she may be absent from work due to her injuries and may even lose her job. She may become isolated and lonely if her husband controls who she sees and where she goes.
What are some of the common beliefs about domestic violence?
There are some common beliefs about Domestic Violence that are wrong. These include:
Common Belief: What happens in the family is private and it is not the business of other people.
Fact: It is against the law for anyone to hit you. If your husband or boyfriend hits you then you should report him to the police so that the police can take him to court. Domestic violence is everyone’s business.
Common Belief: A husband has the right to hit his wife because he paid bride price for her.
Fact: A husband has no right under the law to hit his wife. Paying bride price does not mean a man owns his wife, and she is not his property to treat how he wants. Paying bride price is a custom practice and where custom practice goes against the law then the custom practice must stop.
What can I do about domestic violence?
Talk to a member of your family or see your chief, church Pastor or Priest.
Go to the Women’s Centre in Port Vila or Sanma Counselling Centre in Luganville.
Get a restraining order or domestic violence protection order.
Report to the Police Station and have your attacker arrested.
What is a restraining order?
A restraining order is an order from the court to stop the person who assaulted you from continuing to attack you.
You will need to ask the court to give you the type of protection you want.
You can now get a restraining order using a simple application to the court and without hiring a lawyer. See the Women’s Centre or Public Solicitor for help.
What if your partner does not follow the restraining order?
Report him to the police immediately.
Your partner can be fined or arrested for breaching a restraining order.
For help or more information on domestic violence, contact:
Your nearest Police Station
Ph: 22222 (Port
(Opposite Au Bon
Phone: 24000 Fax: 22478
The Public Solicitor’s Office
Off Rue Pasteur
(next to Caillard & Kaddour)
Phone: 23450 Fax: 23451
Sanma Counselling Centre
CHILD ABUSE IN
What is Child Abuse?
A CHILD defined by law is any person under the age of 18
ABUSE can be physical, for example someone beating or kicking a child.
Abuse can be sexual, for example someone touching a child’s private parts or making a child touch theirs.
That someone can be parents, uncles, aunties, cousins or strangers.
Not giving children food, always ignoring or shouting and being angry with a child are also some examples of abuse.
Beating, kicking, shaking, burning parts of a child with cigarettes or dipping the child in hot water are some ways in which a child can be physically abused.
How can you tell?
A child showing non-accidental injuries on any part of their body all the time is a possible sign that that child is being abused. For example bruised eyes, handprints or unexplained burns.
Having sex with a child or someone touching private parts of a child, making the child touch theirs or making sexual comments to a child are some examples of child sexual abuse.
How can you tell?
A child may seem frightened of being touched and look worried when someone puts a friendly hand on them, may become pregnant or have stains on his or her clothes.
Emotional or mental abuse
Always shouting at a child, telling the child that he or she is stupid and dumb or not allowing a child to ever think that he or she can be right, are some ways in which a child can be mentally abused.
How can you tell?
A child who is always afraid to say something in case he or she is wrong, or takes very little interests in things, runs away from home or attempts to kill him or herself are some signs that the child may be being mentally abused.
This can be where someone who is responsible for a child does not give the child enough to eat or doesn’t look after the child properly. This is called child neglect.
How can you tell?
A child may seem dirty, lack interest in how they look, appear underweight or be demanding of attention. A child who always looks sick, does not appear to sleep properly at night or is always left alone with no adult around are some hints that no one is taking care of that child.
CHILD ABUSE can happen ANYWHERE.
It can happen where you LIVE or at SCHOOL.
The Laws of Vanuatu
protect every child by making CHILD ABUSE an offence.
Children are our future!
They cannot look after themselves
They cannot say what they want
They get hurt too!
What can be done to help stop child abuse?
If you are a CHILD, ask yourself:
- IS someone touching you in a way that you think they should not be touching you?
- IS someone always hurting you?
- IS someone always telling you that you are stupid and dumb?
- IS someone neglecting to take care of you?
If you say yes to any of the questions above, then TALK to SOMEBODY that you can trust, or contact the people at the back of this brochure.
If you are an ADULT, ask yourself:
- DO you see a child being forced to have sex with someone or something that can be called sexual abuse?
- DO you see a child always being beaten or hit?
- DO you see a child constantly being told that he or she is good for nothing?
- DO you see a child always left alone with noone to take care of them?
If you say yes to any of these questions, then help that child and help stop child abuse.
For help or more information, contact:
Ph: (678) 22222 (Port
Fax: (678) 26085
(Opposite Au Bon
Ph: (678) 25764 / 24000
Fax (678) 22478
Sanma Counselling Centre
Youth Centre, Luganville, Santo
Ph: (678) 36076 / 36157
Fax: (678) 36157
Avenue Colardeau, Port
(The road going up to Chiefs’ Nakamal)
Ph: (678) 24655
A Growing Problem
What is Paedophilia?
Paedophilia is a crime. It involves the sexual exploitation or abuse of children.
Paedophilia can come in many forms and can involve:
Having sexual intercourse with children
Indecent assault or rape
Defilement or doing “dirty” things with children such as touching their private parts or making them touch someone else’s
Drugging children for sexual purposes
Production and distribution of child pornography (pictures of children being sexually abused)
A Paedophile is an adult who is sexually attracted to or who commits any sexual acts with a child or children. Paedophiles are commonly known as child abusers or child molesters.
What laws protect children in
The Constitution , which protects general Human Rights; and
The Penal Code of
There are also International Laws which apply to children in
Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the
Convention on the Rights of the Child on the
Who are the victims?
Paedophiles target the most innocent and the most vulnerable members of our society – children. They can be their own children or the children of other people.
Who can be a paedophile?
Paedophiles can be:
Parents or step-parents
Other parental figures such as;
- Social workers
- Health workers
Paedophiles are usually immature and under-assertive, and may have difficulty relating to adult women or have a fear of men, so they choose children to fulfil their normal sexual needs.
They are often unable to tell the difference between childish friendliness and sexual behaviour.
Paedophiles also believe that satisfying their own impulses is more important than the damage done to the child victim.
What can I do about paedophilia?
Our children must be made aware of the existence of paedophiles in our society.
Suspected paedophiles must be reported to the Police.
What about the victims?
Victims of paedophilia need:
Proper medical and psychological treatment, which may
ensure a complete recovery.
Your urgent, tender attention and love to help them recover from their ordeal.
The most effective treatment is the tender love of parents and the community to regain the victims’ trust and ensure a safe environment for our future generations.
Where do I go to report paedophilia?
The Vanuatu Women’s Centre
(Opposite Au Bon
You can put a stop to violence in your family
What is a domestic violence protection order?
A domestic violence protection order is an order made by the court to protect you (‘the Applicant’), or any member of your family, from violence or abuse by another member of your family (‘the Respondent’).
The person applying for the domestic violence protection order is called ‘the Applicant’. The person who the Applicant is complaining about is called ‘the Respondent’.
If you are an adult, you can apply for an order to protect a child of the family from domestic violence or abuse.
What is violence?
Violence includes punching, hitting, slapping, pushing, biting, kicking, shoving, burning, pulling hair, twisting arms, legs or neck, choking, bending back fingers and any other unwanted physical or sexual contact. It also includes shouting and verbal abuse, or even threats of violence without any actual physical contact.
Nobody has the right to use or even threaten to use violence against another person, even if the other person is a member of his or her family.
Who is a member of my family?
For the purposes of applying for a domestic violence protection order, it can be any person who is accepted as a member of your family.
A person can be a member of your family even if they aren’t related to other family members by blood or marriage or they don’t live in the same house.
What does a domestic violence protection order do?
The court may make a domestic violence protection order requiring the Respondent:
not to use violence against you or your family (this type of order is called a ‘Non
to leave the family home for a specific period of time (this type of order is called an ‘Exclusive Occupation order’);
not to make any kind of contact with you or your family, including things like
approaching you in the street or making phone calls to you (this type of order is called a ‘Non Molestation order’).
How do I apply for a domestic violence protection order?
You apply by filling out some special court forms and taking them to your nearest Magistrate’s Court.
The forms tell the court who you are, who the Respondent is and why you want the court to make a domestic violence protection order.
The forms are available from the
If you need help filling out the forms, ask someone to help you. This could be a friend who you trust, the Vanuatu Women’s Centre, or the Public Solicitor’s Office.
How much will it cost me?
You must pay VT3,000 when you take your forms to the court. The court will not deal
with your application until this money is paid.
However, the court may consider reducing the fee in special circumstances. This is for the court to decide. Ask at the court registry for more information.
Do I have to pay a lawyer ?
You do not have to have a lawyer to make an application for a domestic violence protection order, although you may use one if you like.
You can ask a friend to help you if you want and that person can go with you to the court.
Do I have to go to the Police first?
No. You can go straight to the court. If the court makes a domestic violence protection order, a copy is immediately given to the Police and the Respondent.
What happens after I lodge my application?
The Magistrate will deal with your application as soon as possible. You will need to explain to the Magistrate why you need a domestic violence protection order.
If the Magistrate thinks you have good reasons, he or she will make a domestic violence protection order, which will be binding on the person you are complaining about (‘the Respondent’).
When the Magistrate makes the order it will apply only for a short period of time; no more than 14 days.
You will then have to go back to court so the Magistrate can decide whether to continue the order, make changes to it, or remove it.
What happens if theRespondent does not obey the domestic violence protection order?
If the Respondent does not obey the domestic violence protection order, you should tell the Police immediately. They have the power to arrest the Respondent.
The Magistrate has the power to punish the Respondent for breaching the domestic violence protection order.
If the Respondent uses further violence against you or a member of your family, you should tell the Police. Because violence is against the law, the Respondent can be arrested and charged.
For help or more information on how to get a domestic violence protection order, contact:
(Opposite the old
Phone: 24000 Fax: 22478
The Public Solicitor’s Office
Off Rue Pasteur
(next to Caillard & Kaddour)
Phone: 23450 Fax: 23451
Sanma Counselling Centre
What is a Disability?
When you think of disability you might picture a person sitting in a wheelchair, but a disability can be many other things.
A person is disabled whenever he or she does not have the ability to perform an activity in the manner considered normal for a human being. This can be a physical activity, such as walking, or a mental activity.
Disability also includes a person who has difficulty in hearing or speaking.
Disability may be caused by birth, by an accident or illness.
What is a Right?
Rights are interests recognized and protected under law. People must respect other people’s rights. Disrespect of a right can often be punished under the law.
How are disabled people’s rights protected under international law?
Under international law, disabled people’s rights are protected under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons. Under this Declaration, people with a disability have the right to be treated like any other able bodied people despite that disability.
What are the disability rights under international law?
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons recognizes that disabled people have the right to:
· Enjoy a decent life like any able bodied person
· Be respected and not to be treated differently than any other able bodied person
· Equal protection and equality before the law
· Social welfare and assistance
· Work (employment)
· Access to medical treatment
· Have their special needs taken into account by the government
· Access to buildings or public transport
· Attend school
· Get qualified legal assistance; and
· Participate in religion, sports and cultural activities
Are rights of children with disabilities protected under international law?
The rights of disabled children are protected under an international convention known as The Convention On The Rights of The Child.
This Convention states that a child should not be discriminated against because of any disability.
It also says that a child with a disability should have help free of charge after considering the financial position of the family. Further, a child with a disability has the right to receive education, training, special health care and employment.
Should your government recognise these disability rights?
Yes. The Vanuatu Government should recognize the rights of disabled
people because it has signed the Proclamation
on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities under
the Economic & Social Commission for
Under this agreement, the Vanuatu Government must ensure that people
with disabilities in
Why should you know these rights?
no disability legislation in place yet in
· The Constitution provides that everyone is to be treated equally before the law. The word “everyone” in the Constitution includes people who have a disability.
· Everyone must be made aware that people with disabilities have the same rights as able bodied people. It is also important to inform the public that disabled people are capable of doing many things just like able bodied people.
Is there an organisation in
There are two bodies in
· The Disabled Persons Association
You too can help disabled people by helping these organisations to promote the rights of people with disabilities.
For further information contact:
Elison S. Bovu
(opposite Ecole Colardeau)
Ph: (678) 22321
Fax: (678) 27633
What is “negotiation”?
Negotiation is where disputing parties with a legal problem attempt to resolve the dispute by suggesting certain options to which both parties can agree. It is done outside of court.
How are negotiations carried out?
Negotiations can be carried out in many ways. This may be by:
· Meeting with the parties separately or together
Settling a dispute through negotiation offers a:
· cost effective and
solution to a problem
· You can go to court
· Court is expensive
· Court is time consuming
· In Court, one party has to win and one has to lose
· The losing party may hate the winning party for a lifetime.
· You may not have the money to pay the costs
· The outcome of a court decision is uncertain.
Who can negotiate?
You can negotiate with the other party yourself. Otherwise, you can ask someone to negotiate on your behalf. This might be:
· a friend
· a lawyer
· a family member
or any person you feel can represent you effectively.
Where are you going to negotiate?
Negotiation can take place at any place. It may be at:
· a house
· a workplace
· a school
· a village
· an office
or any other place convenient and suitable for both parties.
Is there a cost?
Generally no. But if you hire a lawyer or other professional to negotiate for you a fee will be charged.
How can a negotiator help you?
A negotiator can:
· Help to identify which issues are in dispute
· Discuss your problem with the disputing party
· Attempt to reconcile
What kind of disputes can negotiation resolve?
Any dispute that deals with:
· Personal injury
· Family problems
· Community matters and more
What are some of the ways of settling disputes after negotiation?
Through negotiation both parties may agree:
· On compensation
· On an exchange of valuable goods
· that one or both parties act or stop acting in a certain way
· that the matter is solved once and for all
· that the agreement reached is binding.
Is the agreement legally binding?
If an agreement is written down and signed by both parties, the agreement becomes legally binding. This means you can no longer take the dispute to Court.
How do I contact a negotiator?
There are counseling services and many private lawyers listed in the phone book who can negotiate a legal problem for you. If you can’t afford a lawyer, the Public Solicitor may be able to help you.
The Public Solicitor is located at:
Off Rue Pasteur
(next to Caillard & Kaddour)
YOUR GUIDE TO VAT IN
What is VAT?
VAT is short for Value Added Tax. This is a tax
charged on the purchase of goods and services in
VAT is charged at a fixed rate of 12.5%. It is charged by shop owners and service providers who are registered to collect the tax on the goods and services they provide in exchange for money and/or other services.
It is also charged by the Customs and Inland
Revenue Department when goods are imported into
What is the Purpose of VAT?
VAT was introduced in 1997 as part of the Vanuatu Government’s Comprehensive Reform Programme (CRP). The reasons behind the introduction of VAT were:
To allow a reduction in customs duty rates.
To remove other taxes. e.g. The Video Tax
To establish a fixed rate in tax.
To generate government revenue in order to provide for other government services.
What is VAT paid on?
VAT is imposed on:
The supply (or sale) in
The importation into
What is the rate of VAT in
VAT is fixed at a rate of 12.5% of:
The value of the goods supplied; or
where goods are imported from overseas, the total of:
(a) the value of the goods for the purposes of customs duty (the costs of the item); plus
(b) the amount of customs duty payable; plus
(c) the cost to transport and insure
the goods for transport to
Who needs to be registered to collect VAT?
A person who carries on a taxable
The value of that person’s supplies or sales at the end of each year exceeds 4 million vatu; or
That person expects that the total value of his/her supplies will exceed 4 million vatu.
Where a person’s annual turnover falls below 4 million vatu, but she or he wants to register to collect VAT, she or he can do so voluntarily.
What is a “taxable activity”?
A taxable activity is any activity (personal/professional/corporate or otherwise) carried on continuously and involving the supply of goods and services in exchange for money or other goods and services.
Who has to pay VAT?
The consumer of goods and services supplied by the registered person. The registered person charges VAT on behalf of the government on the supply of goods and services. The consumer pays this, and the business then passes the tax on to the Government.
The importers of goods into
How is VAT to be accounted for?
There are two options to choose from to account for VAT. If you are in business carrying on taxable activity, you can account for VAT on:
A Payments (Cash) Basis - This means accounting for VAT when payments are made or received; or
An Invoice (Accruals) Basis - This means accounting for VAT when you receive or issue an invoice or receive or make a payment on an invoice
These options are available on the VAT registration form which can be obtained from the VAT office.
How often is VAT to be accounted for?
A registered person can choose to account for VAT either on;
A monthly basis – if he or she expects his/her annual earnings to be over 8 million vatu; or
A quarterly basis (every three months).
When registering for VAT, each person or business will be placed in one of these categories by the Director of Customs & Taxes, according to the expected earnings. However, a registered person can still choose to account for VAT on a monthly basis even if his/her expected earnings in one year is less than 8 million vatu.
How is VAT assessed?
The Customs Department and VAT registered persons owe a duty to file to the VAT office the money collected from consumers and importers.
The VAT office is linked to a computer network which enables it to monitor the filing of returns.
The VAT Office normally requests those registered to keep records to enable it to assess VAT liability.
When a registered person files returns, the VAT Office will then check this against the records and then serve an assessment on the registered person telling them how much money they owe.
What if I have an objection to the assessment of VAT?
A registered person who has an objection against an assessment served on him or her may object personally or through his or her agent by writing to the Director of Customs and Taxes. This has to be done within 28 days of receiving the notice of assessment. The objections are considered by the Director within 60 days.
The Director, however, will not consider objections from people who have failed to comply with the requirements to pay VAT. This means that you must pay the amount requested, even if you disagree with it. If your objection is successful, the amount will be corrected.
Where an objection is not wholly allowed by the director, the matter can be referred to the Value Added Tax Tribunal, but the person doing so bears the burden of proving his/her case.
(To date a Tribunal has not yet been established although in principle it is provided for under the VAT Act).
For more information on VAT, contact:
The VAT Office
Department of Customs and Taxes
Tel: (678) 24573
FAX: (678) 24 574