Judge who gained notoriety over flogging sentence retires

A British judge who was once the subject of a motion of impeachment in Tonga has retired.

In 2010 MPs ‘Akilisi Pōhiva and ‘Isileli Pulu, moved in Parliament to impeach Supreme Court judge Robert Shuster on the grounds that he was incompetent.

Judge Shuster gained international notoriety when he sentenced two teenage boys in Tonga to be whipped.

Many of his judgements in Tonga were overturned by the Court of Appeal.

In 2010, two 17-year-old Tongan boys were convicted of theft and escaping from prison. Shuster sentenced each of them to 13 years’ imprisonment and ordered that they be whipped on the buttocks six times with a cat-o-nine-tails.

The sentence was legal under Tongan law, but corporal punishment had not been used as a legal punishment since the 1980s. The flogging portion was overturned on appeal to the Court of Appeal.

Shuster was also criticised for his decision to quash Lord Dalgety’s charge with perjury during an inquiry by a Royal Commission into the sinking of the MV Ashika.

Tonga’s then solicitor general ‘Aminiasi Kefu reportedly said Shuster had no basis in Tongan law for such a decision.

Shuster has been a judge in the Turks and Caicos Islands in March 2015.

His appointment to the bench in the Caribbean nation was met with widespread protest from the legal and civil society.

He has now turned 70, the age limit in the Caribbean nation.

Shuster was commended by Chief Justice Margaret Ramsay-Hale for his rigorous approach to his work on the local bench.

“The jurisdiction benefitted from Mr Shuster’s rigorous approach to his work which saw trials dispatched and the avoidance of unnecessary engagement of the court process in matters,” she said.

Shuster also served in Fiji and Sierra Leone.

The main points

  • A British judge who was once the subject of a motion of impeachment in Tonga has retired.
  • In 2010 MPs ‘Akilisi Pōhiva and ‘Isileli Pulu, moved in Parliament to impeach Supreme Court judge Robert Shuster on the grounds that he was incompetent.
  • Judge Shuster gained international notoriety when he sentenced two teenage boys in Tonga to be whipped.
  • Many of his judgements in Tonga were overturned by the Court of Appeal.

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