The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) selected Coffey for the three-year Tonga Justice Sector Strengthening Programme. Working in partnership with the Tonga Ministry of Justice, Coffey’s will deliver technical services to strengthen the Magistrates’ Court, establish a Youth Diversion Scheme and support the Department of Public Prosecutions and the Supreme Court to improve the delivery of justice services, the timely disposal of cases and greater access to justice.

The community in Tonga has limited access to a fair and effective justice system. The courts operate significantly below the standards of quality and timeliness expected and there is limited understanding about the legal system and legal rights throughout Tonga.

The technical services Coffey will provide aim to improve access to fair and effective justice, increase courts’ capacity to resolve disputes effectively, and deliver effective diversion and rehabilitation services for youth in conflict with the law.

Young people under the age of 18 are treated in the same way as adults in the Tongan criminal justice system, with limited access to fairer, restorative approaches tailored to their circumstances. Tonga needs a more humane, restorative approach to youth offenders.

Coffey will assist the development of a legal framework on youth diversion for minor offences; development of capacity to administer the Youth Diversion Scheme; and training of government and private lawyers on youth diversion and the Youth Diversion Scheme.

Apart from ensuring that youth do not become more serious offenders through their experience in the criminal justice system, a Youth Diversion Scheme would assist in removing minor offences from the heavy workload of the Magistrates’ Court.