Court hears appeal against Fepuleai’s acquittal

By Deidre Tautua-Fanene 14 August 2018, 12:00AM

The appeal against the decision of the Court to acquit the President of Land and Titles Court, Fepuleai Atilla Ropati, of assault charges has begun.

Counsels Rexona Titi and Aumua Ming Leung Wai, representing the Office of the Attorney General and the respondent Fepuleai, appeared before Supreme Court Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke last Friday to make their submissions.

Ms. Titi submitted that the presiding District Court judge had erred in law and did not give enough weight to the victim impact report which detailed the extent of the victim’s injuries. 

“The honorable judge erred in law/fact in not placing sufficient weight or consideration to the victim impact report in the assessment of the gravity of the offending.

“The judge erred in law/fact in the assessment of relevant factors regarding the victim’s injuries,” she submitted. 

The counsel added that she disputed the findings by the sitting judge that there was no premeditation and that there was provocation.

“Judge Papalii had placed too much emphasis on the mitigating factors rather than the aggravating factors of the offence. The injuries were serious but Judge Papalii had ruled they were minor.

“She also had said in open court on 11 May that the gravity of the offending was ‘minor’ but in her written judgment, she said the gravity of the offending was ‘low to moderate’. Therefore, Judge Papalii had erred when she said that the victim’s “scalp was not affected.”

Aumua, in response, submitted that the ordinary appellate principles applied in this particular Court appeal by the Office of the Attorney, but the Attorney General is wrong in that the appeal is framed and looks like a ‘re-hearing’.

“The Attorney General is asking the Court to hear the matter ‘afresh’ when the matter is an appeal, not a rehearing. As such, the Attorney General must identify where Judge Papalii had erred in respect of her decision, but it is not for the Supreme Court to rehear all the circumstances of the case.”

Aumua further submitted that Judge Papalii did not err in law or fact as she applied the correct and relevant legal principles when making her decision. 

“The findings by Judge Papalii were open to her on the evidence and that relevant matters were taken into account by Judge Papalii.

“For example, there was no premeditation as my client did not plan to assault the victim. My client was leaving the party when he came across the victim drinking beer when the victim is on duty as the night watchman/security. 

“My client asked the victim why he was drinking when he was told earlier not to, the victim smiled and that angered my client thus hitting the victim with the bottle. It was open on the evidence for Judge Papalii to find there was no premeditation and that my client was provoked,” he stated in his submission.

Justice Leiataualesa adjourned the proceedings and reserved his ruling to be delivered in a fortnight.  

By Deidre Tautua-Fanene 14 August 2018, 12:00AM

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