A new website for the Public Solicitor’s Office (PSO) will make free legal information available to support Solomon Islanders address their justice issues.
The website (www.pso.gov.sb) is part of a systematic effort by the PSO to enhance access to justice.
It contains a wide range of easily discoverable legal information resources including publications and knowledge products as well as providing general information and links to other relevant resources.
To ensure people that may have visual impairments also have access to the information available on the website, a screen reader with an automated voice option is available to read out content on the page.
The launch of the PSO website coincided with a PSO office tour showcasing a refurbished office space, enhancing both the work environment for PSO staff and the consultation environment for clients.
A refurbished board room has proved invaluable during the recent period of Covid-19 community transmission as it provides a quiet space to conduct online court hearings.
The refurbishment also includes an extension and cataloguing of the PSO library.
The library reading room provides a space for PSO staff to conduct legal research and also to read for relaxation in support of mental wellness.
Adopting a people-centered approach to access to justice, there are now separate entrances for criminal matters and family law matters, enhancing client privacy and reducing potential instances of retraumatisation.
The event was attended by the Australian High Commission’s Governance Counsellor, Andrew Elborn, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Deputy Resident Representative and Country Manager for Solomon Islands, Berdi Berdiyev, the Public Solicitor, George Gray and Deputy Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, Joy Angi along with PSO staff and development partners.
“It is most appropriate that we undertake this office tour in tandem with the website launch as it marks an exciting time of accelerated growth for the PSO,” said Gray.
“With legal information for the people of Solomon Islands now just a click away, lawyers can spend even more time focusing on technical legal advice and client representation.”
He added, “Today we cross off major milestones set out in our five year strategic plan, and we are very thankful to our development partners in UNDP and the Australian Government for their efforts in supporting our mandate.”
Since 2019, the PSO through the Solomon Islands Access to Justice Project have deployed Provincial Paralegals and Community Legal Aid Advocates (CLAs) to remote communities as a means of enhancing access to legal information through outreach and supporting the PSO to deliver effective and efficient legal services.
“The Australian Government is a strong supporter of the Solomon Islands Government’s efforts in accelerating its digital development and with the global COVID-19 pandemic, it further underscores the need for more entry points of access to justice information,” said Andrew Elborn.
He added, “We are proud to support an initiative that ensures people will continue to access justice information without disruption and we are happy to note that this, together with the support from the paralegals will mean even more time for lawyers to focus on delivering justice, especially for women, youth and people with disabilities.”
According to market statistics from Telecommunications Commission of Solomon Islands, the telecommunications sector has seen key improvements in broadband and bandwidth usage due to the successful set up of the international coral sea cable (CS2) and the Solomon Islands Domestic Network Cable resulting in improved internet connectivity since 2010.
“Digitalization of justice information enables the scaling up of the PSO’s awareness raising efforts by empowering users to access legal information from their own homes,” said Berdi Berdiyev.
He added, “We are very pleased to support the PSO in delivering an inclusive, user-centric, accessible and sustainable website.”
The website launch and the refurbishment of the new PSO office was supported by the Access to Justice Project, implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs through the PSO and supported by the Australian Government.