New Laws Tighten Controls Over Lands and Titles Court Records

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The Lands and Titles Court Act 2020 now has a dedicated section 6 to protect the ‘Records of the Court’ where no person shall have access to or remove court records without express permission from the President of the LTC.

The amendment would seem to be a response to the controversy of May 2019 when then Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration (MJCA) Papalii John Taimalelagi was sacked for approving the removal of Court files from the Mulinuu Courthouse.  In response to a request from the MJCA Minister Honorable Faaolesa Katopau Ainuu, the CEO had ordered Ministry staff to deliver certain court files to the Minister’s offices at the FMFM II Government building.

The Public Service Commission came down hard on the MJCA CEO, issuing a charge sheet stating that Papalii John had…

“breached Section 19(b) of the Public Service 2004 Act in that between 2016 and 2017 you unlawfully authorised the release of original Lands and Titles Court files relating to ‘Suafa Ainuu-Sapapalii’ and ‘Suafa Faumuina i Lepea’”

Despite the PSC investigation identifying Court Records to be pertaining to the Minister’s extended family lands and titles cases, the Prime Minister had stated at the time that no disciplinary measures would be imposed on the Justice Minister, because he was within his rights to request Court Records.

Today, the Lands and Titles Court ensures Court Records can only be removed with permission of the President, with the added restriction that it must be “for Court purposes only”.

Section 6. Records of the Court:
(1) The Registrar shall keep or cause to be kept records
of or in relation to the Court, and of every proceeding
before the Court, as required by this Act, or as may
be prescribed by Rules, or by the President.
(2) No person shall have access to the records of the
Court except with the permission of the President, or
the Registrar.
(3) No person shall remove the records of or in relation
to the Court except with the permission of the
President for Courts purposes only.
(4) Any person who breaches subsection (3) shall be
liable to a fine not exceeding 50 penalty units or to an
imprisonment term not exceeding three (3) years, or
both.


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