Attorney General to appeal decision in Court rifle theft case

The Attorney General’s Office will appeal a Supreme Court decision clearing a Deputy Court Registrar of charges of allegedly stealing a rifle that had been used as an exhibit in a court case.

Victory Lesa was working as a Deputy Court Registrar in 2013 when a SAR 8 Springfield rifle used as an exhibit in a District Court matter went missing from the Ministry of Justice Courts and Administration (M.J.C.A).

Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa found Mr. Lesa not guilty on a charge of theft as a servant in June.

But the Attorney-General’s Office is appealing the decision for what it argues was improper consideration of evidence for the case.

The appeal is one of ten matters on the list for the Court of Appeal, which is sitting in September.

At the time of delivering her decision, Justice Tuatagaloa said the prosecution conceded that there was no direct evidence anyone had seen Mr. Lesa take the rifle from the Ministry of Justice room.

The prosecution had submitted to consider the evidence in totality that the defendant was an employee of M.J.C.A. at the time when the rifle was in their custody and eventually went missing. 

The missing rifle was found in the possession of one of prosecution's main witnesses, Lonino Aumua, a convict, sometime in 2018 during a Police operation at Faleula.  

“There is no evidence directly or circumstantial evidence that the defendant took the rifle from M.J.C.A. and the room that the rifle was kept in was unlocked and can be accessed by any of the staff, members of the public and prisoners at the time posted in M.J.C.A.,” said Justice Tuatagaloa. 

“[The] prosecution must prove the charge without reasonable doubt. Part of the evidence from Lonino and his wife were inconsistent with evidence as to the circumstances of the giving of the rifle at Vailima. 

“This inconsistency shows doubt to the prosecution case. I find the evidence of Lonino’s wife unstable and several things come to mind that seems to suggest the evidence was coached.” 

The Judge also said the prosecution’s main witness, Lonino, has a history of offending and relates to possession of unlawful firearms which has an impact on his credibility as a witness. 

After considering the defendant’s “unblemished record with 30 years of service in M.J.C.A as a Court Registrar”, Justice Tuatagaloa said she was not satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that the charge against the accused was proven. 

The charge was dismissed. 

Mr. Lesa had intended to return to work at the Ministry of Justice but this has not happened, pending the appeal from the Attorney-General's Office. 

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