An Australian judge recently appointed to the bench of a Papua New Guinea court has been arrested and charged for conspiring to pervert the course of justice and spreading a false report.
As reported by The Australian, it is alleged that Justice Royale Thomson, appointed to the PNG bench for six months as an acting judge, placed an advertisement in Papua New Guinea's Post-Courier newspaper for the owner of an oil tanker during her time as a lawyer in Port Moresby.
According to The Australian, the owner of the oil tanker retained a Port Moresby law firm, for which Justice Thompson worked as a lawyer at the time, to place a half-page advertisement in the Post-Courier.
The advertisement was placed in response to attacks made in the PNG media by Papua New Guinea Customs, which had taken the ship's cargo into custody.
In the advertisement, a spokesperson for the ship's Singapore-based owner urged "a complete investigation of PNG Customs from the top down". It also stated: "Foreign shipping have a strong incentive to avoid PNG altogether" and "PNG Customs appear to be a law unto themselves".
In another full-page advertisement in the Post-Courier, Customs Commissioner and columnist Gary Juffa claimed that the ship owner's statement was "completely misleading".
Justice Thompson was arrested three months after the advertisement's publication on the grounds that it "tended to cause ill feeling" between customs officers and the police and that it attempted to pervert the course of justice.
Justice Thompson told The Australian that the allegations are "baseless".
If convicted, Justice Thompson will serve jail time, but she is currently on bail of $750 while she attends an introductory course for new judges in Sydney.
Justice Thompson was born in Papua New Guinea and has spent most of her life there. She has worked as a lawyer for 32 years, predominantly in PNG.