Dead baby was victim of poverty says judge as he acquits parents in case he calls “tragic”

    An eight month old boy who died of vomiting and diarrhoea was the victim of poverty, the Tongan Supreme Court has ruled.

    The Hon. Justice Cato described the case as tragic.

    He made the statement in acquitting the child’s parents of charges of manslaughter by negligence.

    He said the child’s death was avoidable, but that the baby and his parents were victims of poverty.

    He said the parents were “perhaps lacking also in education and awareness.”

    He said the defendants, Siulolovao Mafi and Teni Latu were very  ordinary  Tongan  people, living by   hand  to  mouth by  Mr  Latu’s  fishing. They lived in very  basic  accommodation  with four  children.

    The child died at the beginning of 2014 after being ill for several days.

    He became ill on January 30 of that year and died on February 2. He was not attended by a doctor and was not taken to hospital.

    Dr Aho, a paediatrician at the Vaola Hospital, gave the cause of death as dehydration. Dr Aho said if the child had been brought to the hospital as late as the morning of February 2 and been treated, he would have lived.

    The Crown’s case was that the accused grossly  neglected  their child over this period, rendering them liable to an offence of manslaughter by negligence or in the  alternative  had  both  been guilty  of  wilful  neglect  by  not  seeking  medical  assistance or taking  the  child  to hospital.

    Hon. Justice Cato said that when considering his verdict, he took into account, among other matters, whether somebody in the same position as the boy’s parents would consider their conduct criminal.

    He said neither of them seemed to fully understand how serious their baby’s condition was and in any case they were absolutely destitute and had no money with which to take their child to hospital several kilometres away.

    He said that Mafi had relied on the wife for an assessment of the boy’s condition and had also spoken to his own mother. Tongan medicine had been tried, but failed. Teni’s sister believed the boy was possessed because they lived near a cemetery.

    A local pastor was called to pray for the boy, but he too had apparently failed to realise the seriousness of the boy’s condition.

    The pastor arrived in a vehicle, but did not offer and was not asked to take the boy to hospital.

    The father had tried to obtain a vehicle from his patents, but they refused to lend it to him.

    Hon. Justice Cato dismissed a suggestion that the boy’s mother should have taken her son and tried to hitchhike several kilometres to the medical facility.

    He said the child’s feeding  had been disrupted by  a  shortage  of  breast  milk  and  the  substitution  of  inadequate liquids  instead  of  formula  which  in  Tonga  is  expensive  and  he lost  weight.

    The mother had been giving the boy Milo and water and she and her sister had tried to fed the baby with chicken, breadfruit and juice while he was ill.

    The judge said inadequate  diet  or  hygiene  may  have  caused  his stomach   ailment.

    He said the parents did not, in his view,  wilfully  neglect, or  abandon  their  child,  but sought  a vehicle  or  money  and  assistance  from  the  extended  family  which was  not  forthcoming.

    “I do  not think  that  a parent  who  is  unable to take  a  sick  child to  the  hospital  because he  or  she  did  not  have  the  means  to  do  so  should  be  found  to have  wilfully  neglected  the  child,” Hon. Justice Cato said.

    “Perhaps  they   may  have  done  more over  the  three  day  period,  but  taking  into  account  their  lack  of means  it is  not clear  to  me, on  the  evidence  I have  heard, what more   they   could   have   done.

    “This   case is very sad and tragic.”

    The main points

    • An eight month old boy who died of vomiting and diarrhoea was the victim of poverty, the Tongan Supreme Court has ruled.
    • The Hon. Justice Cato described the case as tragic.
    • He made the statement in acquitting the child’s parents of charges of manslaughter by negligence.
    • He said the child’s death was avoidable, but that the baby and his parents were victims of poverty.

    1 COMMENT

    1. Naʻe tupu e mate ʻa ha pēpē māhina valu heʻene lua mo fakalele ko e masiva ʻangoʻango ʻa e mātuʻá, ko e tala tuʻutuʻuni ia ʻa e Fakamaauʻanga Lahi ʻa Tongá.

      Ne fakamatalaʻi ʻe Fakamaau lahi Cato ʻa e keisi ko ʻení ko e fakaleleloto.

      Ko e meʻa tonu ʻeni ʻa e fakamāú lolotonga ʻene tuku ange ke ʻatā e ongo mātuʻa ʻa e tamasiʻí mei he hia ne fakaʻilo kinaua ki ai ko e tāmate tangata ʻi he taʻe tokanga.

      Ne pehē ʻe he fakamāú mahalo naʻe tō nounou fakaako mo fakatokangameʻa foki ʻa e ongo mātuʻá ni.

      Naʻá ne pehē ko e ongo fakaʻiloá, ʻa Siulolovao Mafi mo Teni Lātū ko e kakai Tonga mātuʻaki angamaheni pe kinaua, ʻo na moʻui mei he toutai pe ʻa Lātū. Naʻá na nofo ʻi he fale ko e māloó pe mo ʻena fānau ʻe toko fā.

      Naʻe mate ʻa e tamáasiʻí ʻi he kamataʻanga ʻo e 2014 hili ia ʻene puke ʻi ha ngaahi ʻaho.

      Ne ne puke ʻi he ʻaho 30 ʻo Sānuali ʻo e taʻu ko iá pea ne mālōlō he ʻaho 2 ʻo Fepuelí. Naʻe ʻikai sio ki ai ha toketā pea naʻe ʻikai foki ʻave ia ki fale mahaki.

      Naʻe fakahā ʻe Toketā Siaosi ʻAho ko e toketā ia ki he mahaki ʻoku puke ai ʻa e fānau īkí naʻe tupu e mate ʻa e tamasiʻi mei he maha ʻa e vaí mei he sinó. Naʻe pehē ʻe ʻAho kapau naʻe ʻoange ki fale mahaki ʻa e leká ki muʻa he pongipongi ʻo Fēpueli ʻaho uá ʻo faitoʻo naʻe haofaikiʻi ʻene moʻuí.

      Naʻe taukave e talatalaaki ʻa e kalauní naʻe fuʻu mātuʻaki taʻe tokangaʻi ʻe he ongo mātuʻá ʻena tamá ʻi ha ngaahi taimi ʻo tupu ai ʻena fakahoko e hia ko e tāmate tangata ʻi he taʻe tokanga pe ko hono ʻai ʻe tahá kuó na halaia ʻi he lotoʻaki ke liʻaki ʻaki ʻa e ʻikai ke na kumi ki ha tokoni fakafaitoʻo pe ʻave ʻa ʻena tamá ki fale mahaki.

      Ne pehē ʻe ʻOnalapolo Fakamaau Cato ʻi he taimi ko ē ne ne fakakaukauʻi ai e tuʻutuʻuni ki ha tauteá naʻʻa ne fakakaukau, ʻi he funga ʻo e ngaahi meʻa kehe pē, pe ʻe ʻi ai nai ha taha ʻi he tuʻunga tatau ne ʻi ai ʻa e ongo mātuʻa ʻa e tamasiʻí te ne lau ko e hia ʻena tōʻonga naʻe faí.

      Ne ne pehē naʻe hala ha taha ʻia kinaua ngali ne fuʻu mātuʻaki mahino lelei ki ai ʻa e tuʻunga fakatuʻutāmaki ne ʻi ai ʻena tamá pea hangē ko ha toe keisi pē naʻá na fuʻu masiva ʻangoʻango pea ʻikai ha paʻanga ke ʻaveʻaki ʻena tamá ki fale mahaki ʻa ia ne lau kilomita ʻa hono mamaʻó.

      Ne ne pehē ne fakafalala ʻa Lātū ʻi hono uaifí ki hono vakaiʻi e tuʻunga e moʻui ʻa e leká peá ne talanoa ki heʻene faʻē ʻaʻana foki kau ki ai. Naʻe fai e feinga faitoʻo faka-Tonga ka naʻe ʻikai hano ola. Naʻe tui e tuofefine ʻo Tení ne teʻia fakatēvolo ʻa e tamasiʻí koeʻuhī naʻa nau nofo ofi ki ha faʻitoka.

      Naʻe fai e ui tokoni ki ha faifekau ke haʻu ʻo lotuʻi e tamasiʻí ka naʻe ʻikai ke ne fakatokangaʻi ʻe ia ʻa e tuʻunga fakatuʻutāmaki ne ʻi ai ʻa e leká ni.

      Naʻe aʻu meʻalele atu ʻa e faifekaú ka ne ʻikai ke ne ʻofa ange e meʻalelé pea naʻe ʻikai pe foki fai ha kole ange ia ki ai, ke leleakiʻi e tamasiʻi ki fale mahaki.

      Naʻe feinga e tamai ki heʻene ongo mātuʻá ke ʻomai ha meʻalele mei ai, ka ne ʻikai ke na tali ke ʻoange
      meʻalelé ki ai.

      Naʻe ʻikai tali ʻe Fakamaau Cato e fokotuʻu naʻe totonu ke lue e faʻeé mo ʻene tamá ki fale mahaki mo na taʻofi meʻalele tuʻu pe he halá.

      Naʻá ne pehē naʻe kovi hono fafanga ʻo e tamasiʻí koeʻuhī ko e siʻi e huʻakau huhú mo e siʻi hano fetongi ʻaki ʻo ha vai feʻunga kae ʻikai ko e huʻakau formula ʻa ia ʻoku mamafa ʻi Tonga pea naʻe holo foki e sino ʻo e leká.

      Naʻe fafanga ʻaki ʻe he faʻeé e leká ha mailo mo ha vai peá ne na feinga mo hono tokouá ke fafangaʻaki ha moa, mei mo e huhuaʻi foʻiʻakau lolotonga ʻene puké.

      Naʻe pehē ʻe he fakamāú ngali naʻe tupu e mahaki hono keté mei he kovi ʻa e kaí pe ʻikai ha maʻa feʻunga ʻi hono ʻātakaí.

      Ne ne pehē ʻi he anga ʻene vakaí naʻe ʻikai ha loto ʻo e ongo mātuʻá ni ke taʻetokangaʻi pe liʻekina ʻena tamá ka ne na kole ha meʻalele pe paʻanga mo ha tokoni mei hona kāingá ka ne hala ha taha ʻe fie tokoni kiate kinaua.

      “ʻOku ʻikai ke u tui ʻoku totonu ke fakahalaiaʻi ha mātuʻa ʻoku ʻikai ke ne lava ʻave ʻene tamá ki fale mahaki koeʻuhī naʻe ʻikai ke ne maʻu ha meʻa ke ʻave ai,” ko e lau ia ʻa Cato.

      “Mahalo pe naʻá na mei toe fai ha meʻa ange ʻi ha ʻaho ʻe tolu, ka ʻi he vakai ki he ʻikai kei ʻi ai ha founga ki heʻena moʻuí ʻoku ʻikai mahino kiate au fakatatau ki he ngaahi fakamoʻoni kuó u fanongo ki aí ko e hā ha toe meʻa ne na mei toe ala fai”.

      Ko e keisi ko ʻeni ʻoku mātuʻaki fakamamahi pea fakaleleloto.

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