Lawyers no show upsets Chief Justice

By Deidre Fanene 17 January 2017, 12:00AM

An appeal by the Office of the Attorney General, through a private prosecutor, against the decision by the District Court to find suspended Director of the National Prosecution Office, Mauga Precious Chang, not guilty, has been taken off the Court list.

The decision was made by Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu yesterday when the matter was called for mention in the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Patu’s decision follows the non-appearance of both counsels involved in the matter.

The private prosecutor representing the A.G’s Office is New Zealand-based independent prosecutor, Satiu Simativa Perese. 

Mauga was represented by former Attorney General, Aumua Ming Leung Wai during the hearing before the District Court.

When the matter came up yesterday, the Chief Justice said the absence of both lawyers for the matter was disrespectful.

 “The no appearance by any of the counsels in the matter means this is taken off the list,” His Honour Patu told the Registrar.

“This is rather disrespectful to the Court to file an appeal and then the counsel filing the appeal does not appear.”

Chief Justice Patu also questioned the National Prosecution Office as to why they were not aware of the matter.

But the Chief Justice was told the N.P.O is not involved in the matter. 

Rather, Attorney General Lemalu Herman Retzlaff has acquired the services of an independent prosecutor to handle the matter.

In confirming the decision to appeal the Court’s decision regarding Mauga, Lemalu said the most “important consideration is justice.”

 “A decision to appeal is the prerogative of the independent prosecutor to pursue,” he said. “The final say is his, and it is a professional not a personal consideration.”

The appeal follows District Court Judge, Fepulea’i Ameperosa Roma’s decision to find Mauga not guilty of three traffic-related charges. The charges include negligent driving causing bodily injuries, an alternative charge of dangerous driving and failure to stop to ascertain whether anyone was injured at the scene.

But Lemalu said the consideration of whether an appeal should be lodged is a normal decision that follows a ruling by the Court. 

“As you are aware, while I am the Acting Director of Public Prosecution, the decisions on this case are made by the independent prosecutor,” said the Attorney General. 

 “Confirmation as to whether a decision has been made regarding lodgment of an appeal would have to come from the independent prosecutor. We will then lodge as per his professional opinion.”

While a Tribunal is pending to look into the conduct of suspended Acting D.P.P. and suspended Director of N.P.O., the Office is under the watch of the Attorney General. 

Lemalu said Mauga remains suspended pending the outcome of that Tribunal.  

He added, “N.P.O. is not under the Attorney General’s office. I have been made the Acting D.P.P. at this time but the N.P.O. is still a separate body from the Attorney General’s Office.”

By Deidre Fanene 17 January 2017, 12:00AM

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