Man freed on drug charge after doubts whether substance seized was the same material tested

A man has been found not guilty of possession of cocaine in the Supreme Court.

Talikivaha Palei Posoni was charged with possessing the drug at Te’ekiu on March 22, 2019.

Police raided Posoni’s house after being told by an informer that he was dealing drugs.

The search was carried out without a search warrant.

A bag containing a white substance and a pipe were found hidden in a hole in the wall.

Officer Taufa who took part in the raid described the substance as 24.54 grams of methamphetamine.

The substance was later sent to New Zealand for testing.

Argument was presented that the search was unlawful. Judge Niu, presiding, said he believed the search was reasonable because police thought a serious offence was being committed.

The judge dismissed suggestions that the drugs could have been planted.

The defence argued that the substance analysed in New Zealand was not the same material found in the house.

Counsel for Posoni, Miss A Kafoa, argued that the police described and recorded the drugs found at the house as methamphetamine, while the New Zealand test described it as cocaine.

There were also discrepancies in the colour of the two substances.

Arguments were also heard about discrepancies in the weight of the drug given in Tonga and New Zealand and whether these were due to the drugs in Tonga being weighed inside a plastic bag, which added to the weight.

Judge Niu said there was concern that the substances seized were photographed and looked granular or “momo’i methamphetamine.”

However, he said the New Zealand analyst had described it as a powder and there were differences in the description of the colour of the substance.

“There are therefore two distinct and crucial features in the analyst’s report about the substance she received, which do not match the substance which was found at the accused’s house,” the judge said.

“It is unfortunate that the analyst was not present to give evidence and in particular to bring with her the substance (and plastic bag) she received and tested.

“However, I have to decide this case on the evidence which is before me, and I find that the evidence does not satisfy me beyond reasonable doubt that the substance which was tested and found to be cocaine in New Zealand was the same substance that was found at the accused’s residence at Te’ekiu.

“Accordingly, I find the accused not guilty.”

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