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State v. Noimbik

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Court/Judicial body: District Court of Justice, Papua New Guinea  
Date: January 3, 2007   CRC
Provisions: Article 19: Protection from abuse and neglect  
Domestic provisions: Child Welfare Act (Papua New Guinea), Chp. 276 (Section 95(2)(a): Ill-treating children)  

Case summary

Background: On Oct. 6, 2006, Mr. Yani Noimbik was found guilty of child abuse under Papua New Guinea’s Child Welfare Act after suffocating and squeezing the stomach of his own infant child, causing permanent injury to the child’s rib bone. Following Noimbik’s conviction, the District Court of Justice convened to determine the appropriate sentence to be imposed. Mr. Noimbik was not present in Court, however, as he had absconded while on bail in anticipation of being sentenced to prison.  

Issue and resolution: Violence against children. The Court sentenced Noimbik to a maximum period of 12 months imprisonment.  

Court reasoning: The serious nature of Mr. Noimbik’s actions warrant a more severe punishment. However, the Court felt bound to follow the sentencing guidelines under Section 95(2)(a) of the Child Welfare Act, which provides for a maximum penalty of K400 fine and/or 12 months imprisonment for assault of a child that results in, or is likely to result in, bodily suffering or permanent or serious injury to the health of the child. The Court also discussed Papua New Guinea’s international responsibility under the CRC, particularly under Article 19, to protect children from abuse. The Court encouraged Papua New Guinea to enact legislation, as called for by Article 19, to protect children from all forms of violence, and indicated that the government should consider increasing the maximum penalty for child abuse to a K2,000 fine and 3 years imprisonment. The Court also called for the police and other government agencies to work together to ensure that Mr. Noimbik was promptly apprehended and imprisoned in order to give effect to the Court’s decision as well as Papua New Guinea’s domestic law and international obligations under the CRC.  
Excerpt citing CRC and other relevant human rights   18. Finally, [Mr. Noimbik]’s conduct towards the child not only breached our domestic law as I have mentioned above but has transcended international boundary and gone into violating an international law – the Convention on the Rights of the Child which Papua New Guinea [(“PNG”)] is a signatory to. This Convention recognizes and highlights the human dignity of every child and also demands from member states like PNG that children, no matter how wrong or right they may be must never be harmed in any form or manner and must be protected from all forms of abuse. Each day we see in the news media of reports of children in PNG and elsewhere being continuously and systematically exposed to all forms of abuses [sic], one of which is cruelty at the hands of relatives and people they know and trust, like we see today.   19. As a member state to this Convention, PNG through its various state agencies including the court system is called upon to enforce and give effect to this Convention. Under this law a call is made for a zero tolerance to all forms and manners of abuse and all levels of courts in the country and other state agencies are required to safeguard and protect innocent and defend-less children from abuses by enforcing both applicable national and international laws. Accordingly, PNG as a signatory to this Convention is under an international obligation to give effect to the intention of this Convention and in so doing must ensure that children’s rights are safeguarded, protected and enforced. … 23. If PNG is serious about its international commitment to give a high priority to the rights of children, to their survival, their protection and development, and still remembers its obligation under Article 19 of the Convention (supra) then it must act now to make appropriate legislative changes. This Article says as follows: ” Article 19 1. State Parties (member states) shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parents, legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.” 24. This Article calls upon member states like PNG to, among others, take all appropriate legislative measures to protect children from abuses in any form or manner. In this case the State must consider amending the existing maximum penalty provision from K400. fine and/or 12 months imprisonment to a maximum of K2,000.00 fine and a maximum imprisonment period of up to three years to be of any deterrent to like-minded and therefore give effect to the Convention in a meaningful way. 25. No doubt in the present case, even though the circumstances depict an even more serious form of assault on the victim child that falls within the category of attempted murder and therefore warrant a heavier form of penalty, I cannot go pass [sic] the mark set by law. My hands are tied – I can only go as far as the law allows me. Having considered what the defendant and the State had to say, I am reminded that there were no extenuating circumstances under which the offence was committed. It was a deliberate breach of the law and the defendant knew the consequences that will follow his actions of having harmed an innocent and defend-less [sic] child who is now affected for life at no fault of its own. I therefore sentence the defendant to a maximum period of 12 months imprisonment. 26. It is now my plea to all responsible corporate citizens and state agencies, especially police in the Simbu Province and NCD to work together and ensure that the defendant is promptly apprehended and imprisoned at the nearest corrective institute as per the warrant of commitment to give effect not only to our national law but also to our international obligation under the Convention and in so doing, ensure justice for the innocent toddler.  

CRIN comments: To the extent that the Court describes children’s right to be protected from all forms of violence as an international obligation, CRIN believes that this decision is consistent with the CRC. Under Article 19, governments must take all measures possible to ensure that children are protected from violence, and this includes providing for appropriate criminal sanctions where violent acts have been committed against children.  

Citation: State v. Noimbik, Papua New Guinea District Court of Justice, [2007] PGDC 63; DC587 (3 Jan. 2007).   Link to Full Judgment: