By PNG Echo
Sam Koim is a lawyer, an officer of the court. For an officer of the court to break the law is considered serious. Sam Koim has done so – knowingly and with considerable contempt.
Just a few short days before the judicial review into the disbanding of Investigation Task Force Sweep, a matter filed by Koim as the Chairman of the Investigation Task Force Sweep, against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Koim has released “A Progress Update” of Investigation Task Force Sweep that has been reported widely in the media and is contained in its entirety on the facebook page of Koim.
The report is broad, not only does it contain the statistics of cases handled but also details of funding (lack thereof) and delves into areas that, no doubt, would have been/will be argued in court next week – including whether ITFS is politically compromised (a sub-heading of the report and argued within it.)
This is sub judice contempt. Mr Koim is arguing his case in the media – taking his fight outside the court – in serious contempt of it.
Being a lawyer, Koim would be well aware of the available defences to his actions and one of the few is the ‘public interest’ defence.
The fact that the first sentence of his report states:
It is in the public interest to disclose the progress report of Investigation Task Force Sweep (ITFS) investigations. (my emphasis)
suggests that Koim is well-aware that he is about to commit sub judice contempt and is defending himself before the fact.
You may argue, that as Chairman, Koim has a duty to keep the public informed – and I’m sure he will argue that himself, however, it is a weak argument considering the timing of the report – it’s at a time when the scope for potential judicial influence is at its peak.
What’s more, it is recognised that:
The greater the influence of the maker of the statement, the greater the potential prejudice. (2007, Beattie and Beal p.56)
and Koim’s position gives him a wide sphere of influence both in Papua New Guinea and overseas where Koim has spoken at many prestigious conferences and been interviewed on their national television networks at peak viewing times.
That Koim knows he’s potentially committing a crime is without question but what could be the justifications?
In a much publicized Australian case of sub judice contempt, when Derryn Hinch, an influential Melbourne radio broadcaster, often known as a ‘shock jock’ broadcast prejudicial material about a priest undergoing trial for sexual assault on young boys in 1987, he was charged and convicted of contempt.
In his trial and his subsequent appeal to the High Court of Australia, (the first time such a case had reached the High Court) Hinch used the ‘public interest’ defence, (the same that Koim has used to justify his publication).
Hinch maintained he had acted in the public interest in broadcasting the details because the accused, a catholic priest by the name of Father Michael Glennon, was in a situation where he still had charge of young boys.
In other words, Hinch was attempting to protect the boys from further potential abuse – there was no vested interest for Hinch, that’s not the case with Koim where there is, arguably, only vested interest.
For Koim is not the only or the last corruption fighter in Papua New Guinea (and it’s considerable arrogance to present himself as such) – the fight will go on without him and is doing so with the introduction of the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
It seems that Koim is stirring up public emotions in order to influence the courts to save his own skin and in contempt of them.
Furthermore, Hinch did not win his case using ‘public interest’ and was jailed and while I understand that the PNG courts have no compulsion to follow the findings in an overseas jurisdiction, I’m sure the PNG courts often find similar Australian cases very persuasive in their rulings.
According to a discussion paper put out by the Law Commission of New South Wales regarding the Hinch case:
…the general discussion of the issues surrounding paedophilia would be in the public interest and as such would not qualify as contempt… Hinch’s public interest defence would not be viable as he named the priest and his prior convictions specifically.
As in the Hinch case, Koim has been very specific.
To those who will attempt to conflate this article with the potential sub judice contempt of Koim, let me point out the difference:
This article is dealing specifically with the subject of sub judice contempt (not the matters before the courts next week).
Sub judice means matters being considered under a judge. There have been no charges laid against Koim that I know of for sub judice contempt – but there should be.
What is everyone waiting for? Koim has thrown down the gauntlet, brazenly, provocatively, when is someone going to pick it up?
- 2007, Beattie, S., & Beal, E., Connect and Converge: Australian Media and Communications Law, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.