Lawyer rebuked by judge
In the District Court on Tuesday, a lawyer, representing two defendants accused of handing out money during the general election, questioned the basis of the charges and the Electoral Act.
However he received a sharp rebuke from the presiding judge when asked for a “please explain” and it was revealed he did not have all the relevant information on the charges.
Lawyer Pau Tafaogalupe Mulitalo represented Seuamuli Afele Maiava and Keti Nafoi from the constituency of Gagaemauga No3.
The defendants are amongst several others including two M.P.s facing criminal charges for petitions called before the District Court.
Mr. Nafoi was summonsed in relation to a criminal charge on an occasion around 3rd March where he handed out 30 tala.
Seuamuli also faces a similar charge on 4th March where he handed out 100 tala.
Judge, Vaepule Vaemoa Va’ai presided over the matter.
In his submission, Pau raised a preliminary issue questioning the “jurisdiction and constitutional basis of the charge” being unclear to him.
But Vaepule questioned the lawyer for the reasons of his “uncertainty”.
In response, Pau said his analysis of the constituency is if that there is a criminal element that conflicts with Article 10 of the Constitution, it may cause discrimination against the defendants.
According to Article 10 of the Constitution, the rights concerning criminal law it stated that no person shall be convicted of an offence other than an offence defined by law.
The lawyer asked to dismiss the charges.
However the Judge pressed him to explain what his uncertainty was about the charge.
Pau said the charge and the section used from the electoral law did not specify the charge.
But Vaepule disagreed.
He told the lawyer that the information was there and he might have been looking at the summons letter instead of the charge sheet.
In his defense, Pau admitted he did not have information on the charges.
Unhappy with the response, Vaepule reminded the lawyer that it was not a judge’s problem if he did not have all the information.
“You are raising constitutional arguments yet you haven’t even looked at the charge(s),” said the Judge.
“It is not my job to tell you how to prepare for a case. It’s been a month since petitions were filed in Court and it’s your job to find information. You should have said you have just received your instructions but instead you raise your constitutional arguments and you don’t know the charges.”
Vaepule adjourned the matter for a week for the lawyer to “consider your clients’ pleas and any constitutional arguments you want to raise after perusing information.”