Police comply with prisoner orders
Police have complied with Court orders to bring several defendants before juries after they failed to appear in court for trials earlier this week.
The defendants’ return follows warnings from Supreme Court Judges directed to the Police Commissioner, Fuiavailiili Egon Keil that he could be held in contempt of Court for detaining defendants obliged to be in Court.
Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke addressed the issue again on Friday; he said that he understood the prisoners’ no-shows from being held on remand was the result of the Police not responding to requests.
Leiataualesa said the prosecution indicated that defendants didn’t turn up despite requests being made of Police.
“And that’s the issue, the reason is due to miscommunication between the Attorney General’s Office and that of the Ministry of Police and Prisons,” he said.
“There may be a misunderstanding between Police and Prisons and the Attorney General’s Office about prisoners remanded in custody.
“But clearly [it] appears to be a communications problem.”
Justice Leiataualesa continued to say that it was his understanding that there was no refusal of the prosecution’s request but a misunderstanding.
He added it was important that the issues are addressed by Police and the Attorney General’s Office so they do not arise again.
The Attorney General’s Office lawyer, Ann Matalasi, said she wants to set the record straight that the prosecution’s position was supported by evidence.
She added that correspondence notes the Police advised that a letter should be sent to the Registrar three days prior to Court proceedings before defendants could be released.
The Police Commissioner did not respond to queries.
Earlier this week, Justice Leiataualesa warned Police against unlawful detention of accused defendants, saying that this could constitute kidnapping.
He said if there is an issue with a defendant’s appearance that should be communicated through lawyers which, if appropriate, will be allowed.
“But it’s not for any parties, Police, Prisons or anyone else to withhold unilaterally the presentation of prisoners before this Court,” said Justice Leiataualesa.
“I’m issuing formal orders to the Commissioner of Police and officer-in-charge of the Prison for the defendants to be brought down before this Court by 10am.”
Ms. Matalasi on Thursday explained that the non-appearance from the defendants was due to new procedures from Police requiring a letter to the Registrar prior to the accused's release.
The Assistant Attorney General, Magele Leone Su’a in a separate Court said the Attorney General’s Office was not aware of the new procedures from Police.