A.G. to work with Police on records
The Attorney General’s Office will hand prosecution files to the Police to update their records after several election candidates' nominations were canceled after their records were found to be outdated.
The issue of out-of-date Police records has been brought to the fore by the issue of election candidate nominations, which require those standing for office to have clean legal records.
Inconsistencies in candidates and incumbent Members of Parliaments' police records were revealed following a renewed emphasis on the Police record requirement.
“Prosecution teams have been slow in returning closed prosecutions files to the Ministry of Police so that Police can update its records especially for those with convictions,” the Attorney General, Savalenoa Mareva Betham-Annendale, said in response to questions from the Samoa Observer.
“That may have contributed to the current situation of outdated P.C. (previous convictions) records.”
The Minister of Police and Correctional Services, Tialavea Tionisio Hunt, told the Samoa Observer a lack of updated Police reports is due to delayed submissions of sentencing judgements from the courts.
“The reports we issue are what we have on our system. Until we receive records, there is nothing we can do about it,” the Minister said.
“This is causing a lot of issues for the [elections…] candidates were given incomplete or clean Police records yet, it was uncovered later they do, in fact have criminal convictions.”
But Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O.) for the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration (M.J.C.A.), Moliei Simi Vaai, flatly denied the Minister’s claims.
“For the integrity of the procedures of the court, there is no part of the process where they should interact with the Police,” the C.E.O. said.
“Criminal cases are prosecuted by the Prosecution Team of the [Attorney General’s] Office on behalf of the Police.
“As counsel, the Prosecution deals directly with the court and vice versa on all matters pertaining to the case from beginning to end.
“In terms of decisions of the Court like Court rulings and sentencings they are given orally in Court in the presence of the Prosecutor and written decisions are also provided to them directly.
“This is the same as any other case where legal representation is instructed, the court liaises directly with counsel.
Tialavea said it is concerning that Police records are outdated and election candidates who, in the end, had to withdraw from the election after their criminal records were uncovered.
“To avoid issues such [as] court judgements and sentencings should be forwarded to the Police as soon as the case is completed, so we can update the police reports,” said the Minister.
Savalenoa said that the National Prosecution Office took over responsibility for prosecutions in 2015, under the guidance of the then Director of Public Prosecutions prosecution. Files and records were moved from the Ministry of Police to the National Prosecutions Office, at its location at Mulinuu, where they were housed.
“The post-[National Prosecutions Office] prosecutions teams remained at Mulinuu from 2016-2020, and so did the prosecution files [and] records.
“I understand that the prosecution's teams have been slow in returning closed prosecutions files to the Ministry of Police so that Police can update its records especially for those with convictions. That may have contributed to the current situation of an outdated [...] conviction records.”
Since I have come on board, I have moved the prosecution teams back into the main office of the Attorney General here at TATTE Building, however, due to limited space, the prosecution files [and] records have remained at Mulinuu for now.
“My Office is currently working on returning the closed prosecution files [and] records back to the Ministry of Police so they are in a position to update the [conviction records] and then look to move the rest of the pending [and] open files into my office space,” said the Attorney-General.
“I am optimistic this work will be completed before the end of this year.”
The Police Minister, Tialavea, confirmed that a businessman, Fiu Gasologa Foloki, had a criminal conviction in relation to an assault matter.
Fiu withdrew his candidacy for the Faasaleleaga Number 1 seat after it was challenged by the incumbent Member of Parliament, Finance Minister Sili Epa Tuioti.
The Police did not have Fiu’s updated criminal record.
Efforts to get comments from Fiu were not answered when contacted by the Samoa Observer.
“The court and the Police should be working together to assure the integrity of the process is intact; and this is also to eliminate concerns that our Ministry had a hand in this matter, when in fact we did not have the updated records,” the Minister said.
The Samoa Observer also inquired about the criminal record for Associate Minister of Finance, Mulipola Laki Leiataua, who will not contest the 2021 General Election.
“His case was in 2015, and the conviction came after the election in 2016. The records were later transferred to the Police hence his inability to run in the upcoming election,” said Tialavea.
The Samoa Observer approached Mulipola but he refused to comment on his conviction.
According to Court records the Incumbent M.P. for Aiga ile Tai was convicted and discharged in 2015 over the charge of negligent driving causing death to a male of Vaiusu.
The Road Ordinance Act 1960 noted that a person is liable to a fine not exceeding 20 penalty units or imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years for such a charge.
A person is disqualified from contesting the election if they have been convicted in Samoa or another country within eight years from the date of their nomination for an offence punishable by up to four years or more.