Papua New Guinea has a total of 92 magistrates, which includes the Chief Magistrate and her two deputies.
Eliakim says most magistrates serving on the bench have had more than 10 years of service.
“For me that is frightening, it basically tells me that the court has a huge number of magistrates who are ageing,” says Eliakim.
Chief Magistrate Eliakim says they have tried to correct the ageing gap in its workforce by recruiting magistrates since she took office in 2014.
“We have a ceiling of 126 magistrates but recruitment has been one of the main challenges as well.
“This year, I’ve been able to get another 8 or 9 more appointed from the meeting of the Legal Service Commission meet this month, and after this conference, we will be finalising their entry into the service.
“That should be able to bring up our number to about 100 magistrates,” says Eliakim.
Currently the Magisterial Service has 16 magistrates on probation.
The Chief Magistrate explained that their performance is assessed within the first 12 months, mainly on competency.
At the end of their 12-month assessment, their report is brought back to the commission where it is assessed and a decision made on their extension.
Geographical setting and cultural barrier is another challenge faced by magistrates in the country.
“We try not to have magistrate from that province working in that province, we try to move them around,” she adds.
The Magisterial Services rotates magistrates around so that those who are not from the area reside and preside over cases there.
(Magistrates during today’s meet)