A Tasmanian judge will speak about the use of social media as evidence at an important legal conference in Papua New Guinea next month.
Justice Stephen Estcourt was invited by the Papua New Guinean Public Solicitor, Leslie Mamu, to present papers and participate in workshops at a lawyers’ training conference in Port Moresby.
The invitation came after the Public Solicitor read articles written by Justice Estcourt on social media as evidence.
Justice Estcourt recently presented a paper on artificial intelligence and the law to a national conference of Supreme and Federal Court judges.
He said the office of Public Solicitor was an independent office under the PNG constitution and was not subject to the control of any person or authority.
“It has the obligation to represent persons charged with serious criminal offences and in civil cases subject to available resources,” Justice Estcourt said.
“The workshop will address the use of social media, DNA, ballistics and other technical and developing evidential matters.
“It is the first time that such a workshop has been convened for any part of the legal profession in PNG.
“The papers I have been asked to present are on social media evidence in civil and criminal trials and sentencing, and on appeal advocacy both written and oral.”
As an advocacy teacher for 35 years, Justice Estcourt is no stranger to helping to train lawyers across Australia and overseas.
When he was President of the Australian Bar Association in 2008 he oversaw the inauguration of the Association’s Advocacy Training Council and ran workshops.
In 2010 he went to South Africa to help train lawyers there to teach advocacy to members of their own legal profession.
Before he was appointed a judge in 2013, it was not uncommon for him to devote two weeks’ professional time each year to teaching advocacy.
“What motivates me to write and to teach, both here and overseas,is to ensure the strength of the rule of law by ensuring a strong and skilled legal profession,” Justice Estcourt said.
“It is particularly important for me to assist in the development of a strong legal profession in PNG.”
He said in 2017 the Australian Government agreed to assist the PNG Public Solicitor with the introduction of a lawyers’ career pathway and structured, compulsory continuing professional development.
“Training and post-admission mentoring and support has not existed in PNG for decades,” Justice Estcourt said.
“The workshop I am participating in follows 15 months of upskilling of public defenders which commenced with basic legal and ethical concepts and advanced into more technical and difficult topics of practice and procedure.
“The March workshop is intended to build on those foundations and address new and increasingly important evidential topics and specialised areas of trial practice.”
The Chief Justice of the PNG Supreme Court will also give a presentation at the workshop from March 18 to 20.