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Tokelau Courts System Information

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Pacific Courts - Tokelau





Tokelau does not follow the standard model hierarchy. There is only one level of courts within the country. Whilst provision is made for major civil and criminal cases and appeals to be dealt with by New Zealand courts no cases have yet been taken there. In fact most disputes are dealt with outside the formal court hierarchy in the Taupulega (Council of Elders).



        Has jurisdiction to hear appeals from the High Court of New Zealand exercising its jurisdiction in relation to Tokelau.


HIGH COURT (New Zealand)

        Has original jurisdiction to deal with matters outside the jurisdiction of the commissioners.

        Has jurisdiction to hear appeals from civil and criminal judgments of the commissioners.

        There is no appeal as of right in relation to minor criminal matters (offences punishable by imprisonment of up to three months or a fine of up to $150).  Appeals in relation to such offences may be made under regulations passed pursuant to the Tokelau Act 1948.



        Have both civil and criminal jurisdiction.

        A commissionerís territorial jurisdiction extends to:

        the island for which that commissioner is appointed;

        the territorial sea of Tokelau that surrounds that island.

        Within those territorial boundaries, commissioners have civil jurisdiction:

        in actions for the recovery of debt or damages not exceeding $1,000; and

        in actions for the recovery of chattels not exceeding $1,000 in value.

        Parties to a dispute may extend the jurisdiction of a commissioner by memorandum of agreement.

        A commissioner has jurisdiction in criminal proceedings:

        where the offence is punishable only by a fine

        where the offence is punishable by a period of imprisonment that does not exceed one year.

        A commissioner may do one or more of the following when dealing with a criminal case:

        impose a term of imprisonment for no more that three months;

        impose a fine of no more than $150;

        order that the convicted person undertake community work;

        order that the convicted person be placed under the supervision of the police;

        publicly reprimand the convicted person;

        order payment of compensation of no more than $1,000 for the loss of or damage to any property of the victim of the offence;

        order restitution of the victim's property.

For more information on the court system in Tokelau see Jennifer Corrin-Care, Tess Newton and Don Paterson Introduction to South Pacific Law (Cavendish Publishing Ltd, London, 1999). 

© 2001 University of the South Pacific

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