State seeks to disqualify judge


AN application was made on Friday to disqualify Justice Terrence Higgins from presiding over the mv Rabaul Queen trial against ferry owner Peter Sharp and his captain Anthony Tsiau.
State lawyer Paul Bannister made the application in the National Court in Kokopo, East New Britain, where the trial into the country’s worst maritime disaster is being held.
Bannister said the State made the application on the basis that it was suspicious of bias.
He tried to bring the application to court to deliberate on Friday but defence lawyers said they were served the application late on Thursday afternoon and would need time to respond to the application.
Higgins ruled that the application would be heard on Oct 14.
More than 90 witnesses have testified so far with more than 60 court exhibits tendered.
The trial started on April 11 and six months later State lawyers have filed the application for Higgins to be disqualified from hearing the trial.
Bannister and arresting officer, Chief Supt Benjamin Turi, stated that there was limited funding to bring State witnesses into Kokopo to testify.
Bannister said expert witness Martin Renilson, a maritime expert from Australia, would make his appearance in court on Oct 17.
Sharp and Tsiau are facing 172 charges of manslaughter and for sending and taking an unseaworthy vessel out to sea.
Last week’s sittings had seen six witnesses flown in from Kimbe and Madang to.
The ferry sank off Finschhafen, Morobe on Feb 2, 2012.
In that ferry disaster, 172 people including children, women and crew members disappeared.
The ferry was carrying 300 passengers when it hit rough seas and capsized off the coast of Finschhafen.
Passengers on board had joined the trip in Rabaul, Bougainville and Kimbe.
The trial proper has been adjourned to Oct 17.

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