Legal twist raises eyebrows

By Pai Mulitalo Ale ,

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LAWYERS IN COURT: Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu, suspended N.P.O. Director, Mauga Precious Chang and the Independent Prosecutor from NZ, Satiu Simativa Perese at Court.

LAWYERS IN COURT: Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu, suspended N.P.O. Director, Mauga Precious Chang and the Independent Prosecutor from NZ, Satiu Simativa Perese at Court.

The hearing of charges against the suspended Director of the National Prosecution Office (N.P.O), Mauga Precious Chang, took an interesting twist yesterday.

Mauga is facing charges of negligent driving causing injury and dangerous driving. 

When the matter was called before District Court Judge Vaepule Vaemoa Vaai, confusion arose as to which lawyer was the prosecutor.

Two senior lawyers were present.

One was Taulapapa Brenda Heather-Latu, who appeared on behalf of the N.P.O.

The other was New Zealand-based lawyer, Satiu Simativa Perese, who represented the Police. 

Taulapapa told the Court she was acting on behalf of the N.P.O. based on Section 13 of the National Prosecution Office Act 2015. This provides for the power of the N.P.O Director to delegate any functions, duties and powers of the Office or the Director.

But Satiu disagreed saying the Director of the N.P.O cannot appoint her own prosecutor. 

He said the matter would be tested in the Supreme Court next week.

Even Judge Vaepule was taken by surprise. 

“I did not anticipate what’s now happening,” said Judge Va’ai. 

He said there are two charges before him and he expected advice from the bar the charges are final and what the pleas are.

“I do not see that this Court has to be necessarily involved in arguments as to which Act prevails over which Act,” he said.

“That should be dealt with in the Supreme Court but if counsel sees that these particular arguments should proceed in this Court, it won’t happen this morning.” 

Satiu agreed with Judge Vaepule and admitted that it was unfair for them to bring the matter before the District Court in such a short notice. He added he is in Samoa based on instructions from the Office of the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor.

On the other hand, Taulapapa asked the Court for a weeklong adjournment to allow the Police to finalise the charges against Mauga.

Mauga is represented by former Attorney General, Aumua Ming Leung Wai. He filed an application before the Court for his client to be remanded at liberty. 

Judge Vaepule granted the application.

He also adjourned the matter until 23 September 2016 for Police to finalise charges and to give time for the Supreme Court on Monday to rule on who would stand to prosecute.

Judge Vaepule added if at that stage the Supreme Court has still not ruled on who would prosecute; the District Court will make a decision based on common sense.

Outside Court, Taulapapa declined to comment.

But Satiu said his instructions came from Attorney General, Lemalu Herman Retzlaff.

 “The Attorney General instructed me as an independent counsel,” he said. “The Police can’t prosecute themselves because they work with the person that they are prosecuting.”

He said he is in Samoa as the prosecutor. 

 “That’s why I’m here. The argument this morning (yesterday) is who has the right to appear for the Police.” 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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