The Attorney General’s Office is considering whether to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision to quash the criminal conviction of former Deputy Prime Minister, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo.
This is according to A.G. Criminal Division Senior Prosecutor, Rexona Titi in response to questions from the Samoa Observer.
Two weeks ago, Supreme Court Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa ruled that the appeal against sentence is upheld.
“The sentence imposed is quashed and the appellant is discharged without conviction,” her ruling says.
Titi told the Samoa Observer the Court’s decision was that the guilty plea verdict remains.
“But the sentence was set aside and substituted with a sentence of discharge without conviction.”
Regarding the appeal, Titi was not sure whether they will file an appeal.
“As to your question of appeal, as with any other case before the Court, our office needs to review decision whether there are in fact any grounds to further appeal the matter.”
Efforts to get comments from Member of Parliament, Fonotoe have been unsuccessful as of press time.
In 2014, District Court Judge Vaepule Vaemoa Va'ai, convicted Fonotoe on a charge of inciting or encouraging the obstruction of a Police officer from executing his/her duty.
The charges and conviction stemmed from an incident on Beach road on the night of Friday 4 October, 2013, where Fonotoe was alleged to have obstructed Police work.
Fonotoe appealed the decision and had since been upheld by the court.
According to Justice Tuatagaloa’s ruling, Fonotoe, 50, had a clean record prior to the offence.
“He has a distinguished record of service as a public servant and as a senior lawyer for more than 20 years.
“He has been a Member of Parliament since 2005 and has represented Samoa to regional and international meetings and no doubt has built a reputation both regionally and internationally.
“Mr. Meredith’s reputation as a lawyer and being able to practice has already been affected when a conviction was entered against him.
“A conviction will affect him practicing as a lawyer (issuance of a practicing certificate) and continuing to be a member of the Samoa Law Society.
“Violence is a relevant factor to the degree of culpability of the offender.
“It is always an aggravating factor where it is involved in the commission of an offence.
“In the same vein, it must also be appreciated in sentencing where there is no violence involved. In this case there was no violence involved.”
Justice Tuatagaloa also noted the public apology by Fonotoe on television (in my view) is to the whole of Samoa which would include the police officers involved and the Ministry of Police.
“The public apology by Mr. Meredith who is a public figure can be said to restore confidence in the role of police officers in enforcing the law that may have been disrespected and undermined by Mr. Meredith.
“Apologizing on television is an acknowledgment by Mr. Meredith personally for his behaviour which public apology also shows great remorse on Mr. Meredith’s part.”
Justice Tuatagaloa concluded that in the particular circumstances of this case, she is of the view that the direct and indirect consequences of a conviction on Mr. Meredith far outweigh the gravity of his offending.
“I hold this ground of appeal successful.
“A discharge without conviction under s. 104(5) ‘Shall be deemed to be an acquittal’,” she said.