Assault charges against three Police Officers dismissed

Assault charges filed against three Police Officers accused of beating two brothers – while responding to reports of a drunken altercation – have been dismissed.

The joint charges, filed against Officers Tafeaga Silva, Ah Ping Yang We Yi and Perakah Salevao, were dismissed in a ruling by District Court Judge Alalatoa Rosella Papali’i handed down this week. 

In dismissing the charges, Judge Alalatoa concluded that she was unconvinced by the weight of evidence brought against the three charged officers, but said the role of a fourth retired policeman – who was never charged and did not respond to a summons to testify –remained unclear. 

The defendants were charged with assaulting two brothers, Eteuati Tupua and Masiano Tupua,  after responding to reports of an altercation in Vaitoloa in late September last year. 

One of the complainants, Eteuati, told the Court that on the day in question he was drinking with his brother, Masiano, their uncle and others at the family home in Vaitoloa when an altercation broke out.

Masiano gave evidence that one officer assaulted him and two others continued the assault, while he was transported back to the police station in the back of a police vehicle.

He alleged that the assault continued after they arrived at the Police Station until he was left unconscious. 

The Judge noted that the defence and prosecution witnesses gave conflicting accounts of the day's events, and at the trial's conclusion she remained "far from satisfied" that the charges were proven. 

"I found it hard to believe the evidence of both Eteuati and Masiano as to what actually took place," she said. 

"At the conclusion of the trial, I accepted the evidence of the defence as more believable and credible. 

"There was too much inconsistency.

"At the end I was left with a reasonable doubt.” 

“The matter came down to the issue of credibility and whether [the] Prosecution had proven the elements of the offences," she concluded. 

The Judge concluded that three Officers were left facing an extremely volatile situation, when they were called out to the altercation with few resources. 

“Only three of them were sent out with one handcuff and nothing else," she concluded. 

"They encountered individuals who were not only under the influence of alcohol but strongly resisted arrest. 

“It was an extremely dangerous and unsafe situation placing the lives of the officers at stake.” 

But Justice Alalatoa said that while the prosecution called five witnesses, the last one Lauea Tausoga who is a retired police officer, was issued a summons but did not turn up to Court. 

“I suspect there is more to the story than meets the eye," she said. 

" I am concerned that a more senior [retired] officer who is now retired or so by the name of Lauea Tusoga assaulted Masiano by kicking him on the face and got away with it. 

“On top of that he failed to turn up to give evidence for Police. "

The Judge noted that the three officers were charged last October, some 10 days after the incident took place.

"I am far from satisfied with the manner with which this matter was handled," she said. 

"But it is an executive and Prosecutorial issue. I will refrain from saying more. But for you three accused, given this decision, I can only wish you the best in your future endeavours."                       

The prosecutor for the Attorney-General’s office was Vaisala Afoa while Leota Tima Leavai defended the Police Officers.

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