Concept: Native or Local Courts


A Native Courts Ordinance was passed in 1942 to create a mechanism for solving local disputes. The advisor to the Protectorate on the establishment of Local Councils was anthropologist Ian Hogbin (q.v.) of the University of Sydney, who prepared a booklet on Native Councils and Native Courts in 1942. In 1944, High Commissioner Sir Philip Mitchell proposed a system of local councils based on his work while posted in Uganda during the 1930s. By 1946, Isabel had four separate Councils, Choiseul seven, Guadalcanal thirteen, Malaita fifteen and Nggela three.

A Native Court had a President, a Vice-President and a number of members who were appointed by the High Commissioner. The Native Courts (later Local Courts) could try offences against custom, a number of minor criminal offences relating to theft, assault and disorderly conduct, and offences against byelaws. They dealt will all matters affecting customary land and civil matters where the sum involved did not exceed £500. The maximum powers of sentence were six months imprisonment and a £200 fine. When a case was to be settled it had to be decided by at least three members, one of who had to be either the President or the Vice-President. A Native Court also had a court clerk who had to be able to read and write to record evidence and judgements. The other Native Court members could be illiterate. Those ruled against by Native Courts could appeal to the District Commissioner or a District Officer, and these officials also inspected all Native Court judgements and could alter them if they thought an error had occurred.

By the early 1970s, Native Courts were called 'Local Courts' and were established under the provisions of the Local Courts Ordinance. They had both civil and criminal jurisdictions over most residents within their areas. Under the Land and Titles Ordinance (Cap. 93) matters concerning the customary titles of land were dealt with first by the Local Courts, and could then be appealed in the High Court with the consent of a District Commissioner or the High Court. The police generally prosecuted cases in the Magistrates' Courts. They sometimes took cases to the Local Courts, but these were normally left to the Area Constables. It followed that being brought before a Magistrate's Court was generally regarded as more serious a matter, even though the Local Courts could hear the same offences. Other than in customary land cases, there was no right of appeal from the Local Courts to the Magistrates' Courts or the High Court, but all Local Court decisions were subject to revision by and appeal to a District Commissioner. (NS 15 Apr. 1969; Daly 1979, 2; AR 1974, 87)

Criminal Code

The Criminal Procedure Code Ordinance came into operation on 1 June 1962.

Customary Land Appeal Court

The Customary Land Appeal Court heard disputed cases on appeal from the Local Courts, in front of four Local Appeal Justices and one Magistrate. (Daly 1979, 2)

Related Concepts

Published resources


  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate (ed.), British Solomon Islands Protectorate News Sheet (NS), 1955-1975. Details


  • Daly, F., Structures of Courts or Law in the Solomon Islands, Memorandum to Hon. Minister for Law & Information, Auki, 1979, 10 pp. Details


  • British Solomon Islands Protectorate, British Solomon Islands Protectorate Annual Reports (AR), 1896-1973. Details