L.T.C. President's conviction a highlight for Office
The Attorney General’s Office has listed the securing of a criminal conviction against Lands and Titles Court President, Fepuela’i Atilla Ropati, as one of its “significant achievements” for the year.
The matter involving Fepuela’i came before the District Court, where the President was discharged without conviction for smashing a bottle over the head of a security officer during a function.
In April 2019 the Appeals Court overturned that ruling, following an appeal by the Attorney-General’s office.
The higher court convicted Fepulea’i and fined him $7000 in a decision made by Justice Robert Lloyd Fisher, Justice Rhys Harrison, Justice Graham Ken Panckhurst, Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Keli Tuatagaloa,
The issue is outlined in the Attorney General’s report for the 2018-2019 Financial Year which is endorsed by the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, and the former Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff.
“There have been a number of matters where the court order discharges without convictions,” the report reads.
“These matters have resulted in an increasing number of Appeals to the Supreme Court as the team works hard to ensure that justice is achieved.”
(The report was tabled before Parliament a month ago but is yet to be released).
The report notes, the A.G.’s office appealed the case of Fepuela’i to the Supreme Court and onto the Court of Appeal.
“Without dwelling into the details of this case, the most important aspect of discharges without convictions; the law and principles relevant to this aspect of sentencing was fully canvassed during this case,” the annual report concluded.
“This Court of Appeal decision is now used as the guide for such proceedings in court both in the District and Supreme Court.
“Within his period and with the guide from the Court of Appeal decision in [Fepulea’i] Ropati our office has successfully pursued further appeals of this nature in the Supreme Court.”
During the Appellate Court’s hearing in February 2019, Justice Fisher pointed out there were many matters mitigating his conviction, but the court as a whole ruled that convicting him was unavoidable.
“The judiciary should not be seen to be protecting one of their own,” Justice Fisher said.
“Judges are expected to make results to high standards and they must be held to account like all other members of the community.
“When it came to the sentence which did need to be imposed, we were mindful of the many matters in mitigation in this case where the respondent pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and apologised to and reconciled with the plaintiff.”
In April 2019, Parliament reinstated Fepulea’i.