A BACKLOG of cases are building up at the Tari district court in the Southern Highlands province because there is no magistrate to hear cases.
The absence of the magistrate, and the build up of cases, especially criminal cases, is worrying police in the province.
Provincial police commander Supt Jimmy Onopia said yesterday this had prompted him to send a letter to Chief Magistrate John Numapo highlighting the situation, and asking for a replacement magistrate.
He told Mr Numapo that resident district court magistrate in Tari, Willie Anton, has been absent from Tari since August 2009.
The whole of the Hela region, including Margarima, Tari, Komo, Nogoli (Hides Gas), Koroba and Lake Kopiago, were served by the Tari district court.
However, Supt Onopia said with no magistrate, police were unable to take fresh cases to court and the number of remandees was building up in police cells, putting a stress on them.
“We are running short of rations to feed detainees held in police custody at Tari while we are also unable to set the exact date of those released on police bail to appear in court,” Supt Onopia said in his letter.
He said the senior provincial magistrate (SPM) in Mendi was refusing to entertain cases from the Hela region due to enormous amount of workload in Mendi.
“We desperately need the support of magistrates to clear the backlog of summary and committal criminal cases.
“We seek your immediate intervention to resolve this predicament and ensure that “justice is seen to be done”, Supt Onopia wrote.
Mr Numapo could not be reached for comments.
Tari had been without a magistrate for the past 15 years until last year, when Mr Anton was posted at Tari.
It is not known why the magistrate left after being there for more than a year, but Tari court houses sources said yesterday the magistrate may have left due to personal reason and also the nonavailability of other Government services in Tari like banks, electricity, telecommunication and postal services.