Villages failing to curb alcohol "pandemic": Justice Vui

Samoa is facing a “pandemic” of alcohol abuse causing violence and other social ills which too few village councils are working to contain, Supreme Court Judge Vui Clarence Nelson says. 

“In an effort to avoid problems regularly seen coming before us, the court has said it before, the COVID-19 pandemic is not here but the pandemic in this country is the one involving alcohol, which is an underlying [factor] on the majority of cases that come before us,”  Justice Vui said this week. 

“Too many village councils are failing in their duties in that regard.” 

Justice Vui made the comments while handing down sentencing remarks for Tomi Sani of Sataoa.

Sani was charged with attacking a young man by swinging a machete at his head.

“The Village Council of Sataoa seems to allow drunken men walking around causing trouble at 11 O’clock at night,” Justice Vui said. 

“Such conduct is completely unacceptable.”

The 51-year old defendant was sentenced to five years for charges of causing grievous bodily harm and being armed with a dangerous weapon.

Justice Vui noted the victim was a 25-year-old from the same village.

Late on Friday 6 November at Sataoa, the victim and other young men were celebrating a chief’s birthday, during which time the victim’s bag was taken, the court was told. 

The victim approached the defendant about the missing property and a dispute ensued with the defendant striking the victim with the machete.

“There were two open wounds to the head and one laceration on the chest of the victim,” Justice Vui said. 

“The photos of the injury clearly indicated they were deep and the victim also lost a lot of blood. 

“Due to the severity of his injuries, he was transported to the Moto’otua hospital.”

The victim also suffered from a fractured skull.

Justice Vui said the wounds were life-threatening.

“I’m surprised the defendant was not charged with a more serious charge,” he said. 

The defendant claimed he did not intend to cause serious injuries, as he was very drunk at the time.

“He was drinking that very popular alcohol, Rover Vodka, when the victim confronted him, he was very angry and reached for a machete,” Justice Vui said, 

“He also said the victim swore at him, but there has been no evidence contained on the Police summary of facts to support that.”

The defendant expressed remorse, said the Judge.

“I accept your remorse, but it does not alter the fact that [you] used a lethal weapon on an unarmed man, and because there were two separate injuries and that means [you delivered] two separate strikes,” Justice Vui said. 

“It's lucky the defendant did not suffer permanent injuries and I must also tell you that self-induced drunkenness is never an excuse [for] breaking the law.

“The court has warned the public time and time again [about the dangers] of consuming Rover Vodka and other seemingly unregulated spirits mass-produced and sold cheaply in this country.

“[This is] alcohol which is so strong, we believe it properly belongs in the category of jet fuel.”

Justice Vui acknowledged a recent move by the Government to pass the Alcohol Control Act 2020

“It is comforting to know that after the years, the Government has finally passed Alcohol Control Act 2020,” Justice Vui said.

The Act’s objectives include regulating the sale and supply of alcohol; reducing demand for its consumption; minimising its harmful social effects; and explicitly outlining the responsibilities of parents, village councils and churches in enforcing the law.

Justice Vui told the court that too many village councils were failing in their duties to regulate the consumption of alcohol and to minimise its harmful effects. 

Justice Vui said he hoped the Act would curb the sale of alcohol to young people and make it less easily available to the general public, village stores and other outlets at low prices. 

For the charge of grievous bodily harm the defendant was sentenced to five years in jail, with time already served to be credited.

For the charge of being armed with a dangerous weapon he was sentenced to nine months in jail to be served concurrently. 





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