The Government of the Republic of Nauru

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Court: Speech by CJ Eames on admission to practice of Samuel Norton and Simon Kenny

Mr Norton and Mr Kenny, upon reading the confidential reports of the Registrar and the affidavits and exhibits filed by you, I admit you both to practice as barristers and solicitors of the Supreme Court in the Republic of Nauru.


You are both admitted for the purpose of taking instructions and representing persons who are facing charges arising out of incidents in the Regional Processing Centre in September 2012 and 19 July 2013.  The first proceedings in respect of the September 2012 incident will commence this week in the District Court.


You are both offering your services as defence lawyers substantially or entirely on a pro bono basis.  In other words, you will receive little if any monetary reward for the work you will perform.  That is in the finest traditions of the legal profession in Australia, and particularly so in the case of the legal profession in Victoria, of which you are members.


You both bring a great deal of experience in criminal law. You will appear with and work closely with practitioners admitted as pleaders in Nauru, and they will gain the benefit of your experience. 


The judiciary is very grateful to you both for offering your services.  There have been a number of other practitioners in Australia who have likewise offered to provide pro bono representation in Nauru and we welcome those expressions of interest. 


As is well understood, the substantial number of charges and the many trials that will take place in the District and Supreme Courts will place very great strains on the limited judicial and professional resources available in Nauru. 


Nonetheless, the Courts must ensure that fair trials are provided to every defendant who faces trial.  The prosecution, too, must be given a fair trial.


It is an essential pre-condition to ensuring fair trials that the defendants have competent legal representation.  I am confident that you and the Nauru pleaders, who have practised in Nauru for many years, will ensure that that is the case, but both of you will only be in Nauru for a short time.  Over the coming months there will be a need for significantly greater legal resources than can be provided by the local profession and pro bono volunteers. 


We must not forget that quite apart from the demands for legal services that have arisen as a result of the incidents in the Regional Processing Centre, the Courts must also ensure that the needs of residents and citizens of Nauru for legal representation in criminal, civil and family law proceedings are also met. 


Whilst the further contribution of experienced pro bono lawyers will be welcomed and will provide valuable additional resources, it would be unrealistic to think that the demands to complete the expected large number of trials in a reasonable time will be met by pro bono volunteers. 


Quite apart from the additional pressures on judicial resources attributable to the nearly 120 criminal prosecutions arising from incidents at the Regional Processing Centre, the Supreme Court will in the new year commence hearing appeals from decisions of the Refugee Status Review Tribunal.  That work will require a separate registry system in the Court.


The Resident Magistrate and I have put proposals to government to ensure that justice is not denied, or unreasonably delayed, because of limited professional resources.  The Nauru government has given a sympathetic response to our proposals, but the Nauru budget could not alone meet the exceptional needs which we have identified. 


Not only is there a need for additional, and full time, prosecution and defence lawyers there is an urgent need for a new court building, capable of allowing hearings to be conducted simultaneously in both the District and Supreme Courts.  A purpose built courthouse is essential to ensure that those using the courts can do so in safety and comfort.  The current cramped working conditions are unfair on staff and impede efficient administration.


The judiciary has been encouraged by the sympathetic response of the Nauru government to our proposal that a new court house be built.  That proposal was first put to government at a time before the courts were faced with the recent surge in criminal proceedings.  The need for a new court house was urgent when it was first requested: it is now critical, if the Courts are to offer justice to all who need its services in the months ahead. 


I appreciate that the Republic of Nauru is unlikely to have the resources required to meet these resource needs as a matter of urgency. 


We must look to wealthier nations to provide this practical support to the judiciary and people of a small but proud Pacific country, which wishes to maintain the highest standards of justice. 


Once again, I welcome you both to the Legal Profession of Nauru and thank you on behalf of the community for volunteering your services.



The Hon Geoffrey M Eames AM QC

Chief Justice

19 August 2013