Former policeman denies criminal libel allegation

A former police officer charged with allegedly making false statements that caused harm to the former Deputy Speaker of the House has denied the charges against him. 

Paepaetele Junior Betham entered his not guilty plea to charges against him through his lawyer in the District Court on Tuesday. 

He is charged in relation to statements he made on the E.F.K.S. T.V. programme where he accused former Deputy Speaker, Nafoitoa Talaimanu Keti of unethical conduct during his tenure at the police force. 

Paepaetele pleaded not guilty to the charge of making a false statement causing harm to Nafoitoa’s reputation and one count of resisting police. 

He was represented by defense counsel Priscilla Betham acting on behalf of Lefau Harry Schuster. 

District Court Judge, Talasa Atoa Saaga presided over the matter. 

Judge Saaga adjourned the matter for substantive hearing on 13th August 2021. 

The accused is remanded on bail with conditions to sign in at a Police post pending his next appearance. 

The complainant in the matter, Nafoitoa was an Assistant Commissioner with the Police prior to his election to office in 2016.  

Nafoitoa represented the Gagaemauga No.3 constituency and was the Deputy Speaker of the House in the previous parliamentary term. 

Leading up to the recent election, Paepaetele appeared on the E.F.K.S. T.V. show called Lauao Sinasina programme. He made allegations leveled at Nafoitoa during his time at the Police force. 

The accusations were for alleged unethical conduct, which were strenuously denied by Nafoitoa. 

The former Deputy Speaker later filed a complaint with Police where an investigation was launched leading to the charges against Paepaetele. 

The accused was subsequently charged and detained in custody over the Easter holiday. 

The criminal libel charge against Paepaetele attracts a penalty not exceeding 175 penalty units or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months. 

Under the law, a person commits an offence who publishes by any means information about another person that is false and with the intention to cause harm to that person’s reputation.  

However, it is a defence under the law if the information published is true. 

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