The Supreme Court has rejected an application by a Member of Parliament accused of fraud and forgery to revoke a condition of his bail requiring him to sign at the Faleata Police post every Friday.
The application from the Associate Minister of the Ministry of the Prime Minister, Peseta Vaifou Tevaga, was submitted by his lawyer, Leuluaiali’i Olinda Woodroffe.
But Justice Mata Tuatagaloa rejected it outright.
“The evidence may have been heard but the hearing is not complete until the trial is complete,” Justice Tuatagaloa said.
“The bail condition does not hinder or restrict the accused from attending to his Parliamentary duties.”
Besides, the Judge pointed out that “the Faleata police post is next door to where Parliament temporarily sits.”
Peseta is facing charges of forgery and fraud in relation to transferring shares of his son in the Local Partners and Associates company under his name. He pleaded not guilty.
Suspended Acting Director of the National Prosecution Office (N.P.O.), Muriel Lui, was not in Court. Instead, lawyer Fuifui Ioane represented the N.P.O.
Ms. Ioane told the Court she did not object to the application because Peseta was not a risk to the country.
But Justice Tuatagaloa disagreed. In her decision, she said most applications if not all applications for bail, are for defendants who are held in custody.
She pointed out that the accused is charged with an offence that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
“The maximum penalty reflects the seriousness of the offences,” said Justice Tutagaloa.
“The maximum offences the defendant is charged with means he is not bail-able as of right that is, the defendant has no right to bail and can only be bailed at the discretion of the Court.
“It means the defendant is to be remanded in custody unless Court grants bail. If bail is granted, conditions are usually enforced.”
Justice Tuatagaloa explained that the remanding officer who is the Court Registrar or Deputy Registrar can apply under section 70 and section 71 of Criminal Procedures Act 1972 to grant bail for defendant with conditions of signing in nearest post to await matter instead of being held in custody.
She said when Peseta was arrested and charged on 20th September 2015, instead of being held in custody, he was given bail by the remanding officer with the conditions of signing in at the Faleata Police post every Friday and to appear in Court on 14th December 2015.
The Judge made it clear that a bail condition can only be revoked or varied by the Court.
“…As far as the Court is concerned the remanding officers bail condition was never varied or revoked by the Court and has remain throughout all this time up to now,” she said.
“I do not accept that the defendant was not made fully aware of his bail conditions by the police or the National Prosecution Office.
First, the defendants counsel is responsibility and (her) duty to find out from the beginning whether the defendant who is out on bail has any bail conditions.
“Secondly, the defendant should have been made fully aware of his one bail condition to sign in at Faleata police post every Friday when he was remanded before the Deputy Registrar on 20th November 2015 because if he wasn’t bailed he would have been in custody until the matter was called in court on 14th December 2015.”
Justice Tuatagaloa then ruled that “the evidence may have been heard but the hearing is not complete until the trial is complete.
“The bail condition does not hinder or restrict the accuse from attending to his parliamentary duties. The Faleata police post is next door to where parliament temporarily sits…the defendant’s bail condition signing in at Faleata police post every Friday remains and therefore the application to revoke the bail condition is denied.”
Outside Court, lawyer Leulua’aili’i said she would take the decision for a judiciary review. She said her concern is her client is innocent until proven guilty.
Furthermore, she argued that Peseta’s duties are unlike any other ordinary person where he has responsibility to his district and duty to serve the country.
Asked if she is asking the Court for her client to be treated differently, she said no.
“My concern is it sounds as if Peseta is guilty when he is innocent until proven guilty.”
Peseta was also approached for a comment with regards to claims from the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi that he should have used his common sense before he agreed to leave the country with him for Tuvalu last week.
The Associate Minister declined to comment until the Court proceedings conclude.
On Thursday, Tuilaepa insisted that the decision from Peseta to leave the country in the midst of his Court hearing was his decision alone.
“I only give instructions to come with me but I do not own their common sense,” said Tuilaepa.
“It is none of my business because it’s not a matter concerning me, it’s matter concerning him. If he was to be arrested for it – it would be good too because he has his own common sense because it’s not like I asked him to come and he protested.
“He should’ve told me ‘Tuilaepa I have something (to attend to)’.”