Building institutional effectiveness – Pacific Legal Policy Twinning Program

Pacific Legal Policy Twinning Program_edited
L-R: Leotrina Macomber, Marie Wynter & Catherine Hawkins (AGD), Pauline Beiatau, Tim Mitchell & Elizabeth Brayshaw (AGD). Photo: AGD

By Dr Marie Wynter, International Legal Assistance Branch, Australian Attorney-General’s Department

Australia’s Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) recently hosted Pauline Beiatau of Kiribati and Leotrina Macomber of Tonga under the 2014 AGD Pacific Legal Policy Twinning Program.

This program, which involves a two month placement in Australia, enables legal policy officers from Pacific law and justice agencies to build their capacity to develop and implement policy, which in turn helps their policy agencies to fight crime, improve community safety, regional stability and security, and support strong economic growth.

AGD has innovatively redesigned the twinning program so legal policy officers bring with them a crime or policing policy project affecting their country to work on during their stay.  They then return home with tangible policy deliverables and skills to help build institutional effectiveness in the Pacific.  Throughout the program Pauline and Leotrina shared their knowledge and learnings with AGD and our partner agencies by delivering seminars on their legal systems and how they intend to progress their project on their return home.  

Pauline is the Director of Public Prosecutions of Kiribati. During her stay she worked closely with Tim Mitchell and Louise Bartholomew from AGD to review the rape and sexual assault provisions in the Kiribati Penal Code, which are outdated and fail to reflect the full range and severity of offending behaviour.

“Rape occurs frequently in homes and out there in the public, on all the islands of my country,’ said Pauline. ‘It is becoming prevalent and deterrence should be taken immediately. I think amending inadequate criminal provisions, including penalties, is one way in which serious sexual offences will be addressed properly by law. It will also help improve our ability to prosecute these offences.”

Leotrina is an Assistant Crown Counsel in the Attorney-General’s Office in Tonga. She worked closely with Dr Marie Wynter to review Tonga’s cybercrime and mutual assistance laws to identify reforms to support Tonga to become the first Pacific nation to accede to the Council of Europe’s Convention on Cybercrime.  Australia is well placed to assist Tonga with this project, having acceded to the Convention in 2012.

“Tonga’s recent connection to high speed internet has seen internet usage soar,” said Leotrina. “The Tongan Government has taken a proactive approach to cybercrime, acknowledging that Tonga has become a susceptible target for illegal cyber activities. Tonga could not pass up a great avenue through the Twinning Program to review its current legal framework on cybercrime.”

Towards the end of the program, Leotrina attended a meeting of the Cybercrime Convention in Strasbourg. “The department’s help to conduct a legislative review of Tonga’s compliance with the Convention provided a solid foundation for me to be able to confidently participate at the Council of Europe hosted meetings and map out a realistic action plan for Tonga’s accession process to the Convention,” said Leotrina.

In redesigning the Twinning Program, AGD has included a practical and interactive Legal Policy Development course for Pacific law and justice officials which was delivered to the twins on a ‘train-the-trainer’ basis, enabling them to share their knowledge with their colleagues on their return.

Under the program, the twins were connected with relevant key government stakeholders to help shape and test their policy proposals. Twins were also paired with Senior Executive mentors to gain wider strategic insight into building leadership skills and driving successful policy initiatives.

In addition to the lasting friendships and networks built across government, Pauline and Leotrina have each returned home with a well-develop policy proposal for their projects, plans for future action, and the skills to share their knowledge about good policy development and consultation processes with their agency.  AGD will provide follow-up assistance to the twins to help progress their projects and support their delivery of policy development training at home.

“I learnt a lot of new things from the program, particularly understanding what “legal policy development” actually is, and how to train the trainer,” said Pauline. “Along with a well-developed policy for my project, I intend to bring this knowledge home and to implement this in Kiribati. I find this training very helpful. Thank you so much AGD!”

The program expects to offer two placements per year with applications for the 2015 program due to open in May.  If you intend to apply, please keep an eye on the AGD Pacific Legal Policy Twinning Program website for selection criteria and application dates.  If you would like further information about the Legal Policy Development Course or its modules on Sources of Law and Stakeholder Engagement, please contact Marie at marie.wynter@ag.gov.au or pacific@ag.gov.au.