Mental health patient jailed for attempted murder
A man diagnosed with cognitive disabilities, who was convicted of attempted murder, has been jailed for two years and ten months.
Tifaga Aiono's sentencing was handed down by Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren.
In addition the defendant was also convicted of being armed with a dangerous weapon.
Justice Tafaoimalo noted that given the accused’s mental health condition, the Mental Health Unit team will be required to administer his treatment once a month at Tanumalala.
The court heard that the accused struck the back of the victim’s head with a machete.
“They then wrestled over the machete when the accused tried to strike the victim again," Justice Tafaomalo recalled during sentencing.
"The accused and the victim are cousins and were living in the same house at the time of the offending.
"The accused was upset with the victim because he suspected that the victim had removed his bedding and bag from another villager’s house in the plantation.
"As a result of the offending, the victim sustained a deep laceration on the back of his head, being 16 cm long and 5 cm deep.”
The accused, a 49-year-old male from Fasito'o-uta is not a first time offender. He was imprisoned for three years in 2010 on a charge of attempted murder.
The village mayor confirms that the family of the accused has paid his village penalty and he is banished from the village.
Justice Tafaoimalo noted that Tuifagatoa Dr. George Leao Tuitama conducted the defendant’s psychiatric assessment.
“The accused suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and has been a known patient of the mental health services since 8 March 2010.
"The accused was on regular monthly treatments with a depot antipsychotic until his last treatment in February 2015. Doctor Tuitama says he was lost to follow up until Police brought him back in July 2018 and his treatment resumed.
“Doctor Tuitama also says that the lapse of his treatments from February 2015 might have contributed to him committing the crime. He says the accused requires regular counselling and anger management techniques and that his ongoing compliance to his monthly treatment would assist in preventing a similar event in the future.”
Justice Tafaoimalo noted the a significant mitigating factor that the accused was not having any treatment by the Mental Health Unit at the time of the offending.
“Such treatment improves “urgent and serious psychotic features” according to Doctor Tuitama. Therefore his mental illness entitles him, in my view, to a significant discount. This is in line with section 7(2)(d) of the Sentencing Act 2016 which requires me to take into account as a mitigating factor, that the accused had at the time the offence was committed, diminished intellectual capacity or understanding.”
Justice Tafaoimalo accepted as mitigation the Doctor Tuitama’s report on 5 March 2020 that the accused is remorseful and understands now that there might have been another way to deal with the situation.
“The prosecution seeks a sentencing start point of 11 years imprisonment with an uplift of one year and six months for his previous convictions.
“Prosecution submits that given the circumstances of the current matter, there is nothing that warrants a departure from the usual sentencing policy for attempted murder cases in domestic settings involving the use of a machete.”
Justice Tafaoimalo noted that prosecution has made no submissions on the accused’s mental health issues.
“With all due respect, this should be avoided in the future. Prosecution’s submissions on sentencing often guide the Court as they are well considered and thoroughly researched. I encourage Prosecution to include in the submissions, where appropriate, their position on mental incapacity as a mitigating factor. This will guide the Court in coming to an appropriate discount,” said the Judge.
Justice Tafaoimalo concluded by commending the work of Doctor Tuitama and the Mental Health Unit team in caring for our mentally ill both in the community and in prison.
“I have witnessed their work in their assessments given to the Court, both in relation to this case, as well as many other cases, and in their treatment and handling of those with mental incapacity or intellectual impairment who appear before the Court.”