A decision on whether Samoa’s notorious prisoners Tagaloasa Filipaina and Ovaleni Poli could be transferred back to Tafaigata Prison from the Apia Police cells is expected in two weeks.
That was the outcome after a two-day hearing before Supreme Court Justice, Vui Clarence Nelson, last week.
Tagaloasa and Poli had been moved to Apia after a failed mass prison escape plot at Tafa’igata. Now they have hired a lawyer to try and get them out of the Apia cell so they can return to Tafaigata.
In Court, Jeffery Ainu’u is representing the Police and the Samoa Prison and Correction Services while Pa’u Mulitalo Tafaogalupe is representing the two prisoners.
In Pa’u’s submission, he has two key argument points, the first is whether the Apia Central Police Station is a prison.
“A prison is a place where inmates, dignity, privacy and control are given up to guards and prison administrators and where the simplest of necessities seem like luxuries,” said Pa’u.
“A prison is a long term resident for convicted offenders, whereas a Police station is a place where criminals are detained temporarily in a cell for purposes such as answering bail and for criminal.
“Section 16 (6) of the 2013 Act does not prevent the use of Police stations and holding cells at the Courts for the purposes of keeping prisoners in custody, but only temporarily.
“Section 5 of the Act outlines examples why temporary prison is required to be designated by the Commissioner such as over crowdedness, outbreak of disease, or when a prison is unfit for human habitation or for keeping prisoners in custody as temporary transferees.
“Temporary means lasting, existing, serving or effective for a time only, not permanent, for example a temporary need.
“Therefore, the provisions in Section 16 of the 2013 Act strongly highlight the notion of temporariness of designated locations or places by the Commissioner where prisoners should be kept for a limited time.
“That implies that while the Apia Police Central can be used as a facility to hold prisoners under the designated powers of the Commissioner by its ordinary meaning, the Apia Central is not a prison.
“Any ordinary reasonable person in Samoa when asked ‘if I said to you which one is a prison Ofisa Leoleo I Apia po’o Tafaigata’, the answer would be clear, Tafaigata, not the Ofisa Leoleo at Apia.”
Pa’u’s second argument is whether the detention of the applicants has exceeded the temporary timeframe for which the applicants should be kept in custody at the Apia Central Police.
“The applicants have been locked up for three months now and there is no time limit the Commissioner has given as to when the applicants would be kept at the Apia Police Central,” he said.
“The Commissioner did not specify when the investigations against the applicants are going to be completed, or whether the criminal charges are going to be made against the applicants.
“So my submission is that the application by the applicants should be allowed because their detention at Apia Central Police exceeded the temporary arrangements allowed for by Section 16 of the Prisons and Corrections Act 2013.
“Without any specific time limit given by the respondent as to how long the applicants are to be kept in the Apia Police Station would be unjust and unreasonable.”
Mr. Ainuu argued the Commissioner can designate the Police central as a prison because he has the power to do so.