Repairing the Mulinu’u wheels of justice

By The Editorial Board 19 January 2022, 6:00AM

Just over two weeks into a new year and the public gets to read of a bungle within a key Government Ministry last December that literally set a drug suspect free.

Obviously, the bail hearing process in the Supreme Court went out the window, when an official in the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration (M.C.J.A.) used his discretion to free a suspect who was in police custody.

The article (Police ordered to recapture drug suspect) in the Tuesday 18 January 2022 edition of the Samoa Observer reports on the Police confirming the Attorney General calling for the recapture of a suspect in the December 2021 drug raid at Vaitele-fou.

Acting Police Commissioner, Auapaau Logoitino Filipo, confirmed receiving orders from the Attorney General to recapture the suspect who was released on bail by a deputy court registrar. 

“The suspect was one of the eight people who were arrested from our raid in Vaitele in December where ice was discovered,” he said. 

“He was supposed to be held in custody until 31st January for mention but released on bail by the court [deputy] registrar.”

Auapaau expressed disappointment with the court official, telling the Samoa Observer that his decision to allegedly release the suspect was not proper without a court hearing before a judge.

“What we are not unhappy with is the fact that the suspect who has other pending matters in Court was released without proper authorisation from a Supreme Court Judge to grant bail,” he said.

“There was no bail hearing and the suspect was released without going through the usual process that we follow.”

For a Government Ministry charged with the responsibility of dispensing justice without fear or favour, the actions of the M.J.C.A. senior official sets a bad precedent and could have implications for the prosecution team.

Could the suspect interfere with the case following his release from custody before the Christmas holiday?

Is there a chance he could come into contact with witnesses that the prosecution team could rely on to build their case?

And will the wider investigations by Samoa’s law enforcement agencies into the existence of a drug smuggling network in Samoa be compromised following his release?

A bail hearing before a Supreme Court Judge allows the prosecution and the defence, who would represent the suspect, to make these arguments with the bench ultimately making a ruling based on the merits of the submissions made in court.

So did the deputy court registrar know the process for a bail application or was this a case of a mate doing another mate a favour?

There are too many questions and very few answers. Obviously, an independent investigation is needed to ascertain the legalities of the deputy court registrar’s actions. Therefore, the announcement by the Acting C.E.O. for the M.J.C.A. that an internal investigation is underway is welcome news indeed.

We say this while being cognisant of the amount of press coverage over the last two months on drug raids that the Police led targeting a number of private properties in Apia. Two civil servants, one a senior official with the Office of Electoral Commission, were arrested and charged following the raid.

There is growing public concern at the alleged links between public servants and the rising incidences of drug offences in Samoa in recent years. And this particular case of a senior court official “improperly releasing” a drug suspect from Police custody will immediately raise red flags.

We look forward to the M.J.C.A. investigation into the actions of the senior court official and hope no stone is left unturned, if the Ministry is to address concerns amongst the public of a conspiracy to defeat the course of justice.

By The Editorial Board 19 January 2022, 6:00AM
Samoa Observer

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