In Papua New Guinea, the Sheriff Act governs the operation of Sheriff Office. On 17 April 1975, the Registrar of the National Court was appointed and gazette as the Sheriff, thereby determining that the same person holds the two offices (Sheriff and Registrar) concurrently. The Sheriff is appointed by the Head of the State and both he and his officers are responsible for enforcing Judicial Orders. Their primary responsibilities include:
- Serving documents including complaints and summonses for a fee
- Effecting executions e.g. seizure of property under a warrant or writ from the village court, District Court, National Court or the Supreme Court.
- Making affidavits and returns
- Escorting persons to court under a warrant of apprehension; or by a writ of Habeas Corpus
The sheriff’s office has a sheriff trust account established in accordance with the sheriff regulation and it operates under the meaning of section 15 of the public finance (management) Act 1995 (PFMA). The trust was set up to deposit monies payable to or recovered by the sheriff’s office in the execution of its duties.
The National Judicial Staffing services is the body that is responsible for providing corporate services and administrative support to the office of the sheriff of Papua New Guinea and other sections of the judicial system.
The sheriff and appointed officers execute judgments for the district court, National Courts, and Supreme Court. The process of execution are governed by the National Court Rules (1983), Order 13 – Enforcement of Judgment, the District Court Act section 160 -208 and the Sheriffs Regulations (chapter 55). The court orders come in the following form of writs/warrants of execution:
- Writ of levy of property
- Writ of possession
- Writ of delivery and writ of specific delivery
- Writ of sequestration
- Warrant of execution (district court only)
- Warrant of commitment to enforce a warrant of execution
The sheriff is unable to suspend execution of any writ, warrant or summons unless on instruction from a judgment creditor. The writs/warrants are entered into the sheriff’s writ/warrant register and the sheriff and appointed officers are obligated to enforce the execution.
The sheriff offices operate at each of the National Courts. All writs, summons and warrants are received and executed/served by the sheriff office located at the nearest National Court. A filing fee must bepaid before any writs, summons or warrants can be registered with the sheriff office for execution or service. These fees can be paid in Port Moresby at the Department of Finance and in other regions at the nearest Treasury Offices located at the Provincial District offices.
The Provincial Sheriff Office are located in each National Court House and service the following areas:
- Port Moresby sheriff officers cater for Central, Gulf, Western and Milne Bay at this juncture does
- Kokopo National Court House sheriff officers also cater for Bougainville, Manus and New Ireland.
- Kimbe National Court House
- Lae National Court House sheriff officers cater for East and West Sepik respectively
- Madang National Court House
- Kundiawa National Court House
- Goroka National Court House
- Wabag National Court House Sheriff Officers cater for Southern Highands Province and Hela Province respectively.
- Mt Hagen National Court House sheriff officers cater for Jiwaka Province at this juncture
Disposal of NJSS Obsolete and Surplus Properties Through Sherrif Auction
The NJSS Management after finding ways to dispose obsolete and surplus items that are continuing to pile up at all National Court Houses throughout the country, including Port Moresby, have requested formally to take advantage of the Sheriff Auction, through which the properties could be easily disposed. After careful talks with the Sheriff of the National and Supreme Courts and the Sheriff Enforcement Division and the Secretary of the NJSS, the proposal was endorsed, and trialed out in Port Moresby in March 2012.
A team had been formed which is comprised of a responsible officer from each division including the Registry and the Corporate Services. The team is headed by the Chief Process Enforcement Officer to plan and trial the new activity out and better still to roll it out to the other Provincial centres.
The trial was a success thus it had been rolled out to Lae, Mt. Hagen and Wabag in 2012 and will continue in other Provinces where there is Sheriff Auction conducted. What is important to note is the fact that not all Sheriff Auction will entail disposal of NJSS items but will depend on whether or not there are items earmarked for disposal available at the time and location where the Sheriff Auction will be conducted.
The sheriff of PNG is also the Registrar of the Courts, therefore the administration functions of the sheriff office fall under the National Judicial Staffing Services (NJSS), subsequently ensuring the adoption of its departmental vision. A vision is an organizations framework for directional purposes and function. The NJSS vision Statement is:
“An efficient and effective Judicial System, delivering justice in a timely manner”
The mission statement of the NJSS articulates the organizations purpose for both the employees and the public and is to be applied accordingly to the services provided by the office of the sheriff of Papua New Guinea:
“Administer the delivery of justice and just results to all people”
The judicial system’s objectives support its vision and mission statement and determine the way in which the objectives will be achieved. The sheriff office performs its activities in accordance with the judicial System’s objectives by providing:
- Prompt, effective and efficient disposition of court cases
- Highly professional and customer focused registry and sheriff operations
- Quality, timely and cost effective support mechanisms for judges
- Improved capacity to manage judicial resources properly