Court considers alternative to jail impaired teen

The Supreme Court is looking at an alternative sentence for a 19-year-old repeat burglar who suffers from intellectual impairment.

The young defendant, Michael Tiatia, appeared for a bail hearing before Supreme Court Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke.

The prosecution opposed bail for Tiatia because he offended while on bail.

Justice Leiataualesa noted that the accused has a number of legal matters outstanding.

Tiatia was charged with two counts of burglary and two counts of theft for a November 2019 crime.

He was granted bail in December 2019. 

While on bail, he committed six more burglaries in January 2020 against the same victim, the Court was told.

Tiatia was remanded in custody but due to the COVID-19 state of emergency, he was released from bail by the Court Registrar.

In May this year, he is alleged to have committed another burglary and theft.

The total value of goods Tiatia was alleged to have stolen is an estimated $17,850.

A 26 June letter from the Ministry of Health’s Psychiatric Registrar, Seiulialii Dr. George Leao Tuitama, states that the teenager suffers from an intellectual disability and other impairments.

On every occasion since a Court had granted Tiatia bail, he has breached it on every occasion, Justice Leiataualesa noted.

“After being remanded and given bail he re-offended again…his remand in custody has had little effect on the accused,” the Judge said.

The accused has also failed to appear for two court appearances causing warrants of arrest were issued.

Given the number of crimes and value of items allegedly taken, prison is a real and likely possibility for the defendant, said Justice Leiataualesa.

“In those circumstances, I am not satisfied the interest of justice has been established to grant the accused bail…while I have determined today that bail is to be denied pending sentence, the material before me shows that the accused has a serious mental impairment,” he added.

“This is reflected in a report from Dr. Tuitama as well as in the affidavit from his mother. 

"While ordinarily the accused would likely be imprisoned for his acts, as I have said before the counsel [stated that] given the accused’s mental impairment, consideration should also be given to sentencing alternatives to imprisonment. In this context this may be to focus on his integration and rehabilitation.”

Based on his intellectual capacity, and in order to consider alternatives to imprisonment, counsel may need to provide medical and other reports addressing these issues,  said Justice Leiataualesa.

Bail was denied and Tiatia was remanded in custody to appear Friday, 14 August for sentencing.

Bg pattern light


Subscribe to Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy access to over a thousand articles per month, on any device as well as feature-length investigative articles.

Ready to signup?