Judge concerned student unfazed by crimes' gravity

A Supreme Court Justice has expressed concern that a university student, who has been charged for burglary and theft, did not understand the gravity of his crimes.

The defendant Christian Isaia, a National University of Samoa (N.U.S.) student, appeared unrepresented before Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke on Wednesday.

He has applied for a discharge without conviction which prosecutor, Avei Faasi'i, did not oppose.

However, Justice Leiataualesa is very concerned that the young man did not understand the gravity of his offending and how it can affect his future employment prospects.

“You are appearing for sentencing for burglary and theft and this is a very serious offense. It is serious because burglary carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, for example. It is also serious because it is becoming a favourite pastime of young men in our community,” Justice Leiataualesa said.

“It has become prevalent. Therefore, the Court’s attitude is a stern one toward people who appear in the Courts for burglary and theft. When you first appeared before me, I noted that you are a student at the National University of Samoa and that you have not offended previously. I therefore considered that a discharge without conviction may be available in respect of my sentencing of you.”

Asked why the Court should grant him a discharge without conviction, the defendant expressed remorse before the Court and apologised, adding that he was drunk that night and running with “the wrong crowd” when he burgled and stole items from a private home with three accomplices [Filipo Sione, New Year Pouono and PJ Peneueta].

The four co-defendants stole goods valued at more than $1,055.20. The defendant was charged with one count of burglary which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. He was also charged with theft.

Justice Leiataualesa then asked him if he understood how a conviction will affect his future.

“It doesn’t stop with prison. What will be the consequences of a conviction on you in respect of your future employment? Do you understand?”

As ordered by the Court, the defendant underwent a program with the Salvation Army. 

Justice Leiataualesa asked him what he learnt at Salvation Army and the defendant said he learnt what path he should take to stay out of trouble.

The court was told that the defendant is currently a student at N.U.S., majoring in a course called C.I.S.C.O., which is a field of information technology.

It was due to his status as a N.U.S. student that the Court is considering discharging him without conviction and sentencing him to do community service. 

The defendant received positive character references from the N.U.S. as well as the Don Bosco Technical College. 

Prosecutor Faasii said the crimes committed by the defendant are not conducive to public safety and occurred when the nation was grappling with the measles epidemic last year.

She also noted that the defendant is a first-time offender and recommends a non-custodial sentence of 12 months.

In response Justice Leiataualesa said: “I’ll reserve my decision in your sentencing and consider a discharge without conviction.”

Sentencing for the defendant has been adjourned to 12:30pm Thursday, 26 July.

A summons for the defendant’s co-accused Sione was served but he did not appear in court.

Consequently, Justice Leiataualesa has issued a warrant of arrest for Sione. Pouono and Peneuta were sentenced at an earlier date.

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