Man escapes custodial sentence
A man with hearing and speaking disabilities, was lucky to escape a custodial sentence during the Supreme Court Criminal mention last week.
Teni Peni appeared before Chief Justice, His Honour, Patu Tiavasu’e Falefatu Sapolu for first mention for stealing 1 litre of water cost $40 and 1 box of spring water cost $55 total value of $95.00.
Mr. Peni was brought in by his father and initially he wanted a lawyer to represent him as he pleaded not guilty to the charges against him.
Lucy Sio was the prosecutor from the Attorney General’s Office.
During the criminal mention hearing Ms. Sio informed the court that Mr. Peni is a first time offender.
It was there that Chief Justice Patu told the father of the defendant that his son would not serve a custodial sentence if he pleaded guilty to the charges against.
“Can you tell your son that if he pleads guilty to the charge against him I will not let him go to jail but will give him another chance,” said Chief Justice Patu.
“By looking at the items he allegedly took, it’s not that much and he has special needs as well.
“He has no previous convictions but if he pleads not guilty it is very expensive to get a lawyer. However if your son still insists on getting a lawyer, then that is his right.”
Mr. Peni then changed his plea and pleaded guilty to the charge against him.
Chief Justice also asked the prosecution whether they opposed a non-custodial sentence and in response Ms. Lucy said they did not.
“Teni Peni, the court has noted down your early plea to the charge against you,” Chief Justice Patu told the accused.
“This is a mitigating factor for your side, because it also saves the court’s time and money spent in paying the employees as well as the police if you were to plead not guilty.
“This is also a first time that you have been charged and your father also informed the court that you have hearing and speaking disabilities.
“Another mitigating factor is that the amount of the products is only $95 and it’s not that much.
“Therefore, you will not be given a custodial sentence but you will be sentenced to serve 25 hours of community work and you will be under supervision for seven months.”
Chief Justice Patu warned the father of the accused to look after his son and make sure he will not appear in court again in the future.