Mistrial in teacher rape case

A mistrial was declared by Acting Chief Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa for the case of a teacher facing sexual offence charges against a female student.

The mistrial was declared to be a result of a misunderstanding on Friday. 

It was the third day of trial when the rape charge against 29-year-old Paulo Ieremia was declared dismissed without prejudice in the Supreme Court.

This comes two days after the 17-year-old complainant took the stand.

She was a 16-year-old Year 12 student of St. Paul VI College at the time of the alleged offending in April last year.

Represented by lawyer Unasa Iuni Sapolu, Ieremia is facing three sex-related charges and is currently released on bail. 

The matter was adjourned on Thursday in order to give the prosecution time to reconsider the charge of rape. 

However, the change to the time and dates for the proceeding of the matter was relayed to the defendant’s Counsel too late, who said she was under the impression that the trial would not proceed on Friday. 

“I was notified last night that there has been a change and that the matter will proceed in court this morning (Friday), this is why the defendant’s counsel is saying that this case cannot continue, because she was informed late,” said Justice Mata to the assessors.

“And the sudden arrangements did not give her a chance to inform her witnesses to come in today, but she did have her witnesses here on the first day awaiting their turn to take the stand.

“And because of these issues explained, I have accepted that there will be a mistrial on this matter.

“This matter will be dismissed for now. The prosecution has the right to refile their petition, but for now, it has been dismissed.”

The Acting Chief Justice then proceeded to thank the assessors for joining the court proceeding on Friday morning. 

Co-defendant and Vice-Principal of the same college, Petelo Samaila, is also facing indecent assault charges against the same student. 

He was scheduled to appear in the District Court this week but his name was not on the criminal list. 

Both men were banished by the village where the incident occurred and were ordered to pay $2000 tala and conduct a traditional apology (ifoga). 

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