The Minister of Prison and Correction Authorities, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt admits the unlawful release of an innate, was an oversight on their part. He has put a stop to the weekend parole for all the inmates at Tafa’igata Prison.
Last week, Supreme Court Justice Lei’ataualesa Darryl Clarke expressed his disappointment with the Samoa Prisons and Correction Authorities, with what he has described as the “unlawful release” of an inmate. From the bench, he openly criticised the system, threatening to hold the Prison’s Commissioner “in contempt of Court if this continues to happen.”
The Judge’s comments were made during the case of a convicted murderer who was released less than three years after his sentencing.
Lilo Lilo, was convicted in October 2013. Sentenced to life imprisonment, he is not eligible for parole until 2023.
But that was not the case.
When Lilo was released on weekend parole, he was re-arrested and charged with possession of marijuana.
Back in Court, Lilo pleaded not guilty to the drug charge. A hearing on the matter was held and he was found guilty. This was when Justice Lei’ataualesa found that he was not supposed to have been released at all.
Inmates who serve life imprisonment are eligible for parole upon serving 10 years.
The Minister in response has taken responsibility for the actions of his staff. “If the court is looking at holding anyone in contempt it should be me. “The Commissioner of Prison Authority is under my watch, so it’s me that the court will hold in contempt.
“And I want to thank the Supreme Court Justice for his keenness on the matter,” said Tialavea. “This issue was an oversight by our staff and we have made the appropriate corrections.
“Last week, I informed them about the new law which prohibits certain inmates to be released on the weekend and holiday parole.
“This law applies to those who are convicted of murder, manslaughter, sexual connection, rape, incest, burglary and robbery.
“The Minister explained, before the new act was approved in 2016, the prisons received a copy of the drafted bill and that’s the one they have been using all along.
“The draft allowed for convicted murderers to be released on weekend parole.
“However when the law was passed, no one bothered to give the Prison Authorities a copy which indicates the amendments,” explained the Minister.
Regarding the inmate, Tialavea explained that it’s been five years since Lilo was convicted of murder, not three as indicated by the court.
“Also Lilo was caught with the illegal drugs at the prison’s gate. “Our prison guards reached him and found the drugs in the bag.
“The police came afterwards and we did not hide that, we reported it to the Police. “My point is this was an honest mistake on our part.
“If we purposely released Lilo knowing he was not allowed on weekend parole, do you think we would report the drugs to the police?” said the Minister. Furthermore, the Minister said the Commissioner has the discretion by law to allow certain inmates out on the weekend parole, but not the ones convicted of specified crimes (as stated above).