Guilty or not guilty? The question in relation to the suspended Director of the National Prosecution Office (N.P.O) Mauga Precious Chang will be answered when District Court Judge Fepulea’i Ameperosa Roma delivers his ruling on Monday 12 December 2016.
Mauga has pleaded not guilty to charges of negligent driving causing injury, dangerous driving and failing to stop to ascertain.
Queens Counsel from New Zealand, Aaron Perkins and former Attorney General, Aumua Ming Leung Wai are representing her. New Zealand lawyer, Satiu Simativa Perese, is the prosecutor.
During the final submissions yesterday, Satiu said he was certain she is guilty.
Take for instance the charge of failing to stop to ascertain. Satiu said the defendant acknowledged her responsibility of being the driver.
“The inquiry then focuses on whether the accident arose from the defendant’s use of the Tucson and if the defendant stopped to ascertain whether anyone had been injured,” he said. He said it is undisputable that an accident occurred, and it is also undisputable that the defendant drove the vehicle. What is hard to understand is why she did not check if anyone else was injured. Instead she drove off to the hospital with her passenger.
Satiu said Mauga’s actions endangered lives, including people on the bus as well as potential bystanders and other motorists when she backed up from the crash site. Satiu argued that it is the defendant’s statutory duty to check for the safety of others, which she did not do.
Satiu also questioned the circumstances of the accident in relation to the two charges of negligent driving causing injury and dangerous driving.
The defendant’s vehicle approached the T.A.T.T.E. Building gates from the west travelling east, and it was on the inside lane. She wanted to enter the T.A.T.T.E. compound through the gates, and in order to do that she needed to cross the double lane road used by vehicles travelling in the opposite direction.
Satiu said the vehicles travelling in the opposite direction – including the bus - had the right of way. As Mauga’s vehicle crossed the two lanes, the school bus crashed into the left front door and fender of the vehicle. The bus then shunted Mauga’s car towards the T.A.T.T.E. fence line.
During the accident the front left fender area of the school bus collided with a taxi, which was waiting in the exit lane of the T.A.T.T.E. gates.
The taxi driver did not move from the spot where he says the taxi was standing before it was hit by the bus.
Satiu said such evidence is significant as a point of reference for the location of the taxi and it is also important in respect of determining the point of impact having regard to this skid mark.
He also said the once the bus and Mauga’s car had come to a stop the bus and the Tucson separated and Mauga backed up and left the scene.
By the time the police arrived, Mauga’s car had already left and the school bus was back on the road to take the children to a bus stop at the market but the only vehicle left at the scene was the taxi.
Satiu submitted that the circumstances described above are likely to be uncontroversial.
“There is one aspect which definitively supports the prosecution’s case, that the collision occurred whilst Mauga’s car was straddling the two westbound lanes that made the skid mark, which is accepted as a key consideration in the reconstruction of the crash,” said Satiu.
“It is possible for your honor to resolve the issues in this case without having to delve into the minutiae and difficult task of evaluating who was telling the truth and who was not.”
Satiu said in his perspective all the witnesses were telling the truth.
The task is to reconcile all of the assertions around what he submitted are irrefutable pieces of evidence, the skid mark and it’s location, the location of the damage on both the bus and the car, and the location of the taxi not having moved.
Satiu highlighted some of the facts that the Court should look at in proving these charges against the accused. He submitted that there is no doubt the crash was the result of the imprudent and unreasonable decision-making.
Negligence in trying to slowly cross the two westbound lanes with a bus so close, making the accident an accident just waiting to happen.
Dangerous, in trying to force or expecting the bus to slow down and stop in order to get halfway across and then all the way across if the other lane was clear
“I also submit that Mrs Teueli who was with the defendant in the vehicle was injured in a more than transient and trifling way in this crash.
“Given the location of the impact on her side of the car, it is but for the Grace of God that this young woman was not more seriously injured.”
Mr. Perkins disagreed. He argued that the prosecution failed to provide evidence to prove the charges against his client and therefore she is not guilty.