Accused in arson attack that destroyed van was no innocent bystander says judge

    Na’e fakahalaia’i ‘i he Fakamaau’anga Lahi’ ‘i Nuku’alofa ‘a Siosaia Latu ko ‘ene tutu ha veeni ‘i Havelu ‘o vela ‘osi’osi ‘i Novema ‘aho 28, 2015. Na’e tupu ‘eni he’ene ‘ita hili ‘ena fuhu mo Samipeni Latu. Na’a’ ne tukuaki’i ‘e ia ‘a e toko taha ko hono ‘angikolo ko ‘Oki ki hono tutu ‘o e vēni’ ka ne ‘ikai tui ki heni ‘a e fakamāu’. Kuo tu’utu’uni ai ke tauhi ‘a Siosaia ‘e he kau polisi’ ke toki hilifaki hono tautea’.

    The Supreme Court in Nuku’alofa has found a man guilty of arson.

    Siosaia Latu was accused of setting fire to a van on November 28, 2015.

    In handing down his verdict, Lord Chief Justice Cato said Latu had helped set fire to a van following a fight.

    Latu and Samipeni Latu had been fighting on that date at Havelu. Siosaia Latu was married to a woman who was Samipeni’s next door neighbour.

    A fight ensued which was stopped by a third party. Samipeni went home and later went to work. He did not see the accused again that day.

    Samipeni said he met the accused later and the accused apologised for burning his family’s vehicle. He said there had been ill feeling about the accused’s marriage.

    Pakiaola Latu said she lived in Havelu and she had  woken  up about 3am to find her family’s van was on fire. The vehicle was destroyed.

    Fekita Mafile’o gave evidence saying he had been present with the accused at about 4.30pm.

    He said the accused was with his uncle Oki.

    He said he had heard  a suggestion  that Oki and the accused were going to set fire. Oki took a cardboard box from Siosaia Latu and lit that and a box he was carrying and threw them  into the  car having torn the plastic cover of the window of the car. The witness saw the box being lit and ran away.

    Siosaia Latu denied that he had set fire to the car or had wanted it burned. He had said  he intended to beat up Samipeni at the residence and claimed it was Oki who was solely responsible for burning the  car.

    However, the judge did not accept the accused’s evidence. He said Siosaia Latu had knowingly encouraged Oki to burn the car.

    “Although he stood at a distance of about seven meters from Oki when he used the cardboard to burn the car and set it alight he was not merely an innocent spectator,” the judge said.

    “He admitted that he did nothing to stop Oki from burning the car.

    “I consider that the accused,  who had been in a fight earlier with an occupant of the house, was still so angry about what had happened that morning and later that day that he beyond any reasonable doubt gave knowing encouragement to and so did aid and abet Oki to commit serious arson.

    “The accused is found guilty convicted of serious arson of a motor vehicle on or about the 28th November 2015. He is remanded in custody  for sentence.”

    The main points

    • The Supreme Court in Nuku’alofa has found a man guilty of arson.
    • Siosaia Latu was accused of setting fire to van on November 28, 2015.
    • In handing down his verdict, Lord Chief Justice Cato said Latu had helped set fire to a van following a fight.

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