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Chief Justice adjourns sentencing, citing conflict of interest

Chief Justice, His Honour Satiu Simativa Perese, has adjourned the sentencing of a man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter for killing his wife. He also ordered the matter to be heard by another Judge, citing a conflict of interest. 

The 50-year-old defendant, Sosene Liona, pleaded guilty to manslaughter last month as a result of an incident which killed his 52-year-old wife at Lalomanu. 

The married couple have children.

Liona’s guilty plea was entered at the Supreme Court before Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke.

On Wednesday, His Honour Satiu adjourned the matter to be heard by another judge on 13 July 2020 citing “a potential conflict of interest” in relation to Reverend Netisoni Gata, who was a previous client of the Chief Justice prior to his appointment to the bench. 

“He has written to the court about the counseling services that he has provided to the defendant and some of what he says is material so I need to disclose that conflict. If there is an issue with that, you need to let me know so we can get another judge to do the sentencing,” Chief Justice Satiu said. 

“I think it’s appropriate only because I acted for Reverend Netisoni for some time so this is a very important circumstance and it needs to be heard and treated as fairly as we possibly can.”

The lawyer for the defendant, Mauga Precious Chang, agreed.

Before the matter was adjourned and referred to another judge, Mauga asked the Court to address a preliminary matter of bail variation.

She asked that he be given access to his children, be able to have contact with them and to go back to Lalomanu to get them.

Mauga submitted that the pulenuu of the village has provided a character reference for the defendant and he does not intend to live in Lalomanu, but only wishes to go and get his children.

The defendant also wanted his children to return to school and he be given the approval to pick them up and take them to school. 

Chief Justice Satiu granted the bail variation. The prosecutor is lawyer, Fuifui Ioane, of the Attorney General's Office.

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