Magistrate’s decision sent out wrong message, Supreme Court declares

ʻOku ʻi lalo ʻi he ongoongó ni ha fakamatala faka-Tonga ki he talanoá ni

The Supreme Court has described a magistrate’s decision to release  a senior policeman whose vehicle had collided with another car with only a severe reprimand as manifestly inappropriate.

The court was told that on December 26 last year, a vehicle driven by Chief Inspector Ashley Fua collided with the rear of a parked vehicle outside a Chinese takeaway on the Taufa’ahau Rd at Fanga.

The parked vehicle was occupied. Chief Inspector Fua apologised to the driver and passenger and told them he would repair their vehicle. A number  of policemen arrived and officers noted that  his eyes were bloodshot and he smelt of alcohol.

Police officer Taufe’ulungaki took Fua to the hospital, but an alcohol test could not be performed because the equipment was not working.

The Chief Inspector accepted that he was at fault and said he would pay to have the other car repaired.

When he appeared before the Magistrate’s Court he was discharged without conviction, but was severely reprimanded.

The Crown appealed against the outcome and Fua  accepted  that  he  should  be  re-sentenced.

In the Supreme Court Hon. Justice Cato said the result had been “manifestly inappropriate” and that the sentencing process had miscarried.

“The Magistrate’s decision merely to severely reprimand was inadequate and sent out entirely the wrong message to the  public,” Hon. Justice Cato said.

He noted that Chief Inspector Fua had pleaded guilty immediately and had suffered embarrassment in the police force and in public because of the incident.

Nevertheless, he said that the Magistrate should have imposed a proper penalty.

He convicted Chief Inspector Fua of reckless driving and fined him $500.

The main points

  • The Supreme Court has described a magistrate’s decision to release a driver whose vehicle hit another car with only a severe reprimand as manifestly inappropriate.
  • The court was told that on December 26 last year, a vehicle driven by Chief Inspector Ashley Fua collided with the rear of a parked vehicle.
  • When he appeared before the Magistrate’s Court he was discharged without conviction, but was severely reprimanded.
  • The Supreme Court He convicted Chief Inspector Fua of reckless driving and fined him $500.

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