Court cases “repeatedly delayed” because Attorney General office overloaded and understaffed, claims Lawyer Edwards

The Office of the Attorney General was on the verge of collapse (“ta’e’aonga”,) senior legal counselor William Clive Edwards Snr has claimed.

Edwards alleged the process of submitting prosecution and criminal proceedings to courts were repeatedly delayed because the Office could not “cope” with the work overload.

The lawyer said he believed the Office was understaffed or the experienced law officers were on leave or had left the country for good.

Edwards said these issues needed to be resolved.

He made the comments in a televised radio programme he co-hosted with political partner and former MP Teisina Fuko which was released online.

Edwards was responding after Fuko called on the Attorney General Linda Folaumoetu’i to actively engage with the public in government matters which were of legal interest and make advice and recommendations.

Fuko wanted immediate responses from the Attorney General on these matters.  

The claims came after a public concern at the repeated delays of some high profile court cases including the Lord Tu’ivakano and the Lavulavus’ cases.

Police charged Lord Tu’ivakano, a former Prime Minister and Speaker, on March 2018 with numerous offences relating to passport fraud, bribery and money laundering.

Since then the case had been delayed numerous times. Last month it was adjourned again but this time his lawyer, who is Mr Edwards, applied to strike out several of the charges against him. The case was last scheduled to be heard on October 9 at the Supreme Court in Nuku’alofa.

The delay in the Noble’s case was due to requests from both sides to be given more time so they could file papers for the trial.

Cabinet minister and MP ‘Akosita Lavulavu and her husband former government minister and MP ‘Etuate Lavulavu had their case adjourned for the third time in June 25.

Their case had been adjourned to allow for the defence to submit documents in relation to their charges.

The Lavulavus are charged with three counts each of knowingly dealing with forged documents and three counts of obtaining credit by false pretences.

The Attorney General has been contacted for comment.

The main points

  • The Office of the Attorney General was on the verge of collapse (“ta’e’aonga”) senior legal counselor William Clive Edwards Snr has claimed.
  • Edwards alleged the process of submitting prosecution and criminal proceedings to courts were repeatedly delayed because the Office could not “cope” with the work overload.

For more information

Lavulavus granted permission to seek judicial review of Auditor Generals’ actions

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