Australian-born judge David Lambourne closer to deportation as Kiribati parliament votes for High Court removal

Australian-born judge David Lambourne closer to deportation as Kiribati parliament votes for High Court removal
  • PublishedApril 28, 2024

An Australian judge is a step closer to being deported from Kiribati after the country’s parliament voted in favour of his removal from the High Court.

David Lambourne’s suspension from office two years ago on allegations of misconduct sparked a judicial crisis that has left the Pacific Island nation without any senior judges.

Justice Lambourne has fought a long-running legal battle to block his suspension but overnight the country’s parliament voted in favour of a resolution advising President Taneti Maamau to remove him from the High Court.

Two men stand in high court judge gowns and wigs.
David Lambourne, an Australian working as a High Court Judge in Kiribati. (Supplied: Kiribati High Court) (Supplied: Kiribati High Court)

It’s effectively the penultimate step in the process to sack a judge and all that remains is for the president to sign an order authorising his removal.

Justice Lambourne has lived in Kiribati for many years and is married to the current opposition leader, Tessie Lambourne.

‘The fabric of our democracy has been weakened’

In a statement Justice Lambourne said he was deeply saddened by the resolution in parliament.

“This has been a process motivated not by a desire to do right by the constitution, but by politics, and the fabric of our democracy has been weakened as a result,” he said.

The vote in parliament followed the tabling of a report by a tribunal set up by the government to investigate the allegations of misconduct.

Of the five allegations against him, the tribunal found only one constituted a breach of the judicial code of conduct and that related to a delay in handing down a written judgement in a case.

Taneti Maamau, wearing a suit, sits at a desk. Behind him are flags and paintings.
President Taneti Maamau has not yet commented on the deportation ruling for Justice Lambourne. (AP: UN Web TV)

In his statement Justice Lambourne said he was “denied natural justice from the beginning” and the tribunal’s procedures were “deeply flawed”.

“There has been a concerted attack on the independence of the judiciary in Kiribati by the president and the executive over the past two years,” he said.

The office of Kiribati President Taneti Maamau has not yet commented on Justice Lambourne’s deportation. 

Kiribati has relied on expatriate judges for its senior courts but Kiribati’s government has dramatically escalated its campaign against the judiciary in recent years. 

Legal groups in Australia — as well as a UN Special Rapporteur — have repeatedly criticised Kiribati’s actions, saying the government has made a series of moves to undermine judicial independence and interfere with judges’ security of tenure.

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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