Judge condemns vigilante behaviour as he lays down sentences for assault, illegal detention

Nobody has the right to take the law into their own hands, the Supreme Court has  been told.

Mr Justice Cato made the remarks in handing down a three year sentence to Sosefo Langi Kautai, who beat and shot two of his workers he thought were stealing from him.

The judge said no civilised society could tolerate oppressive and vigilante conduct.

“The sentence I impose must reflect  the  seriousness of  his  actions  and  act  as  a deterrent to others who chose to take the law into their own · hands and exact punishment  for perceived  wrongdoing.

“No citizen has the right no matter what he conceives may be the seriousness of crimes committed against him to take the law into his own hands and punish others without due process and trial.”

The court was told that on May 29, 2016 Sosefo Langi Kautai and one of his employees, Tu’a Tavake, detained and assaulted  two men, Fine Lasike and his uncle, Nofomuli  Lasike.

The events occurred in the area of Lavengatonga, a village on the eastern side of Tongatapu where Kautai  owned and operated allotments of crops used for tapa bark.

Kautai had noticed that bark and items from his house had been taken and was frustrated at his inability to catch the culprits.

He suspected the Lasikes of being responsible for the thefts.

Tavake caught Fine Lasike entering Kautai’s house during the night. He punched him and held him until Kautai arrived. Kautai then beat Lasike repeatedly and detained him until the following afternoon.

He then lured Nofomuli Lasike to the house and after pointing a gun at him and accusing him of theft, shot him near the knee.

After this he took the men, who are relatives of his wife, home and then to hospital.

Mr Justice Cato said this must have been a terrifying experience for both men.

“I make no finding as to  whether  Fine  and  his  uncle were  involved  in  theft,” Mr Cato said.

“Whether  they  were  responsibleis irrelevant.

“Tavake and Kautai had no right to   take the law into their hands and administer punishment to Fine or Nofumuli.”

The judge said Tavake took no part in the assaults after Kautai arrived. He was sentenced to 60 hours community work.

Kautai was found guilty of multiple charges of unlawful imprisonment, assault and causing serious bodily harm.

He was sentenced to a total of three years’ imprisonment.

The  main points

  • Nobody has the right to take the law into their own hands, the Supreme Court has been told.
  • Mr Justice Cato made the remarks in handing down a three year sentence to Sosefo Langi Kautai, who beat and shot two men he thought were stealing from him.
  • The court was told that on May 29, 2015 Sosefo Langi Kautai and one of his employees, Tu’a Tavake, detained and assaulted two men, Fine Lasike and his uncle, Nofomuli
  • The events occurred in the area of Lavengatonga, a village on the eastern side of Tongatapu where Kautai owned and operated allotments of crops used for tapa bark.

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