Government officer gets suspended sentence for carrying gun into nightclub

Kuo malu'i angalelei ha 'ofisa ngaue fakapule'anga ma'olunga kae 'ikai ngaue popula ki he hia ko e to'o me'atau ke fakahoko ha hia 'i ha naitikalapu. Na'e tautea toloi ta'u tolu mahina tolu 'a Hekisou Fifita ko 'ene to'o ha me'atau taumu'a ke fakahoko ha hia hili ia hano taki ia ki tu'a mei he naitikalapu Nauti Ruby's 'i 'Aokosi 2016. Na'e 'ikai ha taha 'e lavea he me'a ni.

A senior government officer who carried arms into a nightclub with intent to commit an offence, was sentenced to three years in prison on January 26, with all of the time suspended.

Court document says in August 2016 Hekisou Fifita, 48, was taken by the security guard out of the Nauti bar in Ma’ufanga.

When he got outside Fifita  elbowed the security, who was also the complainant,  in the chest. The· complainant pushed him away.

The complainant went back into the bar and the accused went to his car in the parking area.

He returned with a .22 rifle seeking the complainant.

An affidavit filed by a Tongan police officer said that he was called to the scene and saw the accused struggling with another person over the rifle.

“He had confiscated the rifle together with a magazine with 5 rounds of ammunition that was found inside Fifita’s pocket.”

“Importantly,” he said “the rifle was not loaded.”

Judge Cato said: “I take the view that the defendant acted out of character and became belligerent after having been removed from the nightclub. I consider that he has had some difficulty himself in coming to an understanding of his aberrant behaviour, that evening.”

Mr Cato said, “he had no doubt Fifita’s judgement, however, was seriously affected by the liquor he had consumed although he did not admit to an alcohol problem.”

A probation report said Fifita was a first offender. He is married with five children. He came from a respected Tongan family. Two of his children are pursuing tertiary education. His wife has a senior position at Viola Hospital.

He is a senior civil servant with tertiary qualifications including a Masters in Business Administration. He has held senior positions at the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications. He used to represent the Ministry on some meetings overseas and to outer Islands.

Judge Cato set a starting point of three-years and three months imprisonment for the offence.

He said although this is a serious offending, it was in his view, at the lower end of the scale.

“If the weapon had been loaded or the complainant hurt as a consequence of some use of the rifle that would have justified, in my view a higher starting point,” the judge said.

“In all I allow him 18 months discount by way of mitigation. The sentence of imprisonment for count one carrying arms with intent to commit an assault I impose is one year and nine months imprisonment.”

Judge Cato fully suspended Fifita’s sentence of imprisonment on the ground that:

a. He is placed on probation for the term of his suspension;

b. He is not to commit any offences punishable by imprisonment for the term of his suspension;

c. He is not to drink alcohol during the term of his suspension;

d. He is to undergo the following courses under the direction of probation;

  1. A course on alcohol and drug abuse
  2. A course on anger management

e. He is to perform 140 hours community work under the direction of probation and also under the direction and supervision of Mr Andrew To’moana (Director of IT MEIDECC department). The community work he may undertake in compliance with the order includes;

1. Conducting a survey on education standards in Forms 5, 6 and 7 to be analysed and reported;

2. Provide advice to students in villages regarding education and educating them to set goals;

3. Provide advice to people in villages regarding security issues when using Social Media and the Internet;

  1. Provide Computer training skills to Civil Officers of the Government;
  2. Create a Computer Program to store records of the department.

Fifita was warned that a failure to perform the conditions of his suspension may mean that he is required to serve the term of imprisonment imposed upon him.

On count 2 charge of carrying a firearm and ammunition in a public place he was convicted and discharged.

The rifle and ammunition were forfeit.

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