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Tonga Courts System Information

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Pacific Courts - Tonga






        A body appointed by the King to assist him, rather than a court.

        However, the Privy Council has jurisdiction to hear appeals from the Land Court in relation to hereditary estates and titles.



        Has all the powers of the Supreme Court and exclusive jurisdiction to determine criminal and civil appeals from the Supreme Court.

        Appeal lies as of right from all civil decisions except:

        where the amount involved does not exceed $1000;

        from an order made by consent;

        from an order as to costs;

        interlocutory decisions; and

        where leave of the Supreme Court judge or of the Court of Appeal is required.

        Any person who has been convicted on trial in the Supreme Court may appeal to the Court in the following circumstances:

        against conviction on any ground of appeal involving only a question of law;

        with leave of the Court on any ground of appeal;

        with leave of the Court against sentence unless the penalty is one that is fixed in law.

        Any party to an appeal from the magistrate's courts to the Supreme Court may make a further appeal to the Court of Appeal on a point of law with leave of either the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal.

        Has jurisdiction to hear appeals from the Land Court except in matters relating to the determination of hereditary estates and titles, where appeals lie to the Privy Council.

        Both the Supreme Court and the Land Court may refer a point of law to the Court of Appeal by way of case stated.

        Judges of the Court of Appeal are also empowered to give opinions on important or difficult matters when requested so to do by the King, the Cabinet or the Legislative Assembly.



        Has all the powers of the magistrate's courts and appellate jurisdiction in relation to decisions of the magistrate's courts.

        Has civil jurisdiction in:

        cases where the amount claimed exceeds $500;

        in divorce, probate and admiralty matters;

        and in any other matters not specifically allotted to any other tribunal.

        Has jurisdiction to hear appeals as of right from the civil judgment or order of a magistrate.

        Is empowered to try all indictable offences and has criminal jurisdiction in relation to all offences that carry a maximum penalty of a fine that is more that $500 or a period of imprisonment exceeding two years.



        A magistrate's court constituted by the chief police magistrate has jurisdiction throughout Tonga.  Other magistrates may exercise jurisdiction within the district to which they are assigned. 

        Every magistrate has the following general powers and jurisdiction in civil cases:

        to make orders for maintenance;

        to issue subpoenas for witnesses;

        to enforce payments;

        to take affidavits and administer oaths;

        to exercise powers set down by law;

        to make temporary orders where prompt action is needed; and

        to deal with claims for ownership or possession of goods up to the value of $1,000.

        Have specific jurisdiction in civil actions where the plaintiff or defendant resides in its district, provided the amount claimed does not exceed $1,000, or, in the case of the chief police magistrate, $2,000.

        All magistrates have jurisdiction with regard to hearing and determining criminal matters in which the prescribed punishment does not exceed a fine of $1000 or a period of three years' imprisonment.  In addition, the chief police magistrate has jurisdiction to hear cases in which the fine provided by law is no more than $1500.



        Apply the Land Act 1927 and address all questions of title affecting land or any interest in land.

For more information on the judicial system in Tonga 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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