Reporting, Investigating and Prosecuting Family and Sexual Violence Offences in Papua New Guinea

Originally published
View original



Funded by the Australian Government through the Justice Services and Stability for Development Program (JSS4D), the research project was conducted between June and October 2019 by a small team from the Australian National University (ANU), with the assistance of researchers based in Papua New Guinea (PNG).

The aim was to identify and analyse quantitative data that would indicate what has happened with the reporting, investigation and prosecution of family and sexual violence (FSV) offences in the past five years in three locations — Port Moresby, Lae and Arawa.

Although it is recognised that sexual violence and domestic violence can and often do overlap, due to the project’s reliance on criminal justice and agency records a distinction is usually drawn between the two forms of violence, which reflects the separation in the Criminal Code between violent and sexual offences. In addition, we draw a distinction between domestic violence, which involves current or former intimate partners, and family violence, which involves violence perpetrated by a family member. As a result, throughout the report we usually refer to domestic and family violence (DFV) that can result in a range of violent offence charges, and sexual violence offences.

In the three locations more than 50 stakeholders were consulted or interviewed, and data sourced from the PNG Magisterial Services and National Judicial Staff Services, the Office of Public Prosecutions, eleven different sections of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC), and five non-government organisation (NGO) services.
In recent years in PNG there have been significant legislative reforms and policy developments to address FSV. Aid programs have sought to improve capacity and skills to address FSV, with JSS4D focusing on training, awareness raising, as well as targeted infrastructure in the law and justice sector under its four outcome areas.1 The impact of these cumulative efforts appeared in the statistical crime and justice data. At every stage in the criminal justice system there were indications that there was an increase in the volume of FSV offences, and as a proportion of the matters dealt with. This held true even where there was a decline in the total number of offences being dealt with by the police and courts. It appears that much of the increase is in DFV offences, both summary and indictable offences, although the levels of reported serious sexual offences also appear to be slowly and steadily rising.

Obtaining statistical data was extremely challenging, and there are major gaps in the picture that emerges. It is impossible to say, based on the available evidence, whether rates of successful prosecution, the length of time cases take, and court outcomes have changed in the past five years. However, the data does give some insights into: