May 01

62% Of Criminal Appeals In Vanuatu Result In Ruling For Defendant

Sixty-two percent of all criminal appeals in Vanuatu from 1997 to 2016 resulted in a ruling favorable to the defendant by the Court of Appeal.

Vanuatu is a Pacific island nation, about 1,100 miles northeast of Australia. It has a population of less than 300,000 on its 82 islands. Vanuatu was a co-British/French colony known as New Hebrides until its independence in 1980. Its legal system, largely based on the English common law, is similar to that in the United States.

Court of Appeal of Vanuatu

Court of Appeal of Vanuatu

Legal opinions of the Court of Appeal are published in English, one of Vanuatu’s three official languages.

From 1997 to 2016, 53% of the appeals of a conviction resulted in an outright acquittal or an order for a new trial. An additional 12% of those appeals resulted in an order for a sentence reduction, although the conviction was affirmed.

The appeal of only the sentence (the conviction was accepted as valid), resulted in a reduced sentence in 57% of cases, and a remand for resentencing in an additional 4% of cases. The sentence in Vanuatu for a crime is by and large much more lenient than the U.S., so those successful appeals were of sentences that to begin with were very charitable by U.S. standards.

Overall, during the 20 years from 1997 to 2016, more than 62% of all criminal appeals of a conviction or a sentence resulted in a ruling favoring the defendant. That is more than ten times the rate of successful criminal appeals in state and federal courts in the United States.

The following lists summarize the criminal appeals decided by the Court of Appeal of Vanuatu from 1997 to 2016.

Conviction & Sentence appealed

  • 32% — Conviction reversed (Acquittal)
  • 21% — Conviction reversed (New trial)
  • 12% — Conviction affirmed (Sentence reduced)
  • 65% — Total
  • 35% — Conviction affirmed

Sentence only appealed

  • 57% — Sentence reduced
  • 4% — Remanded for resentencing
  • 61% — Total
  • 12% — Sentence affirmed
  • 27% — Sentence increased (Prosecution appealed sentence)

Source: Court of Appeal of Vanuatu, Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute website,

Click here for the decisions by year of the Court of Appeal of Vanuatu.

Picture: Court of Appeal of Vanuatu

Lower picture:

May 1, 2017
By Hans Sherrer
Justice Denied

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