Tongatapu alleged drunken taxi driver acquitted of rape

    Tuku anga 'e he Fakamaau'anga Lahi 'a Manase Fuavao ko ha faka'uli tekisī 'i he kautaha Hūfanga' mei he tukuaki'i na'a ne tohotoho'i 'a e fefine ta'u 27 ko Leavai. Kuo tonuhia ai 'a Fuavao 'i he tu'utu'uni 'a Fakamaau Lahi Laki Niu'.

    A taxi driver in Tongatapu has been cleared of sexually assaulting a female passenger while locking her in his car.

    A Supreme Court judge found Manase Fuavao not guilty of sexually assaulting the 27-year-old woman who was only known as Leavai on 19 October 2017 at Tokomololo.

    The court heard the woman had rung Hufanga Taxi after her night shift at the Retirement Fund building at Mateialona Road in Nuku’alofa and asked to be taken to her home at Houma.

    But prosecutors claimed the driver had first taken her to a bush allotment in Tokomololo instead.

    While they were driving, the court heard Fuavao told the woman “he felt sexy and wanted to have sex with her.”

    The woman claimed she rejected his requests.

    The woman told the court she could smell alcohol on Fuavao’s breath. She said she asked him if he was drunk and he said yes and that he had been drinking since daylight up to when she rang for the taxi.

    The woman claimed that she was crying while Fuavao was allegedly raping her for about half an hour.

    After the ordeal she said that they then left and took her to her home.

    When she got off the taxi, she gave him $10.00 but he gave it back to her and said it was alright.

    After he left she contacted the Nukunuku police and made the complaint.

    Fuavao had a different story and had maintained throughout the trial that he had consensual intercourse with the complainant.

    He said that he did not force the woman and he believed that she consented to having sexual intercourse with him. He said he was surprised after he found out that she had lodged the complaint.

    In his ruling Judge Laki Niu said: “Having come to the views I have taken in respect of those matters of the evidence (the facts), I cannot help but find that I cannot rely upon the evidence of the complainant that she was raped by the accused, as the prosecution has alleged against the accused.

    “No other evidence supports her evidence. I therefore have a reasonable doubt that she was raped by the accused, that is, that he had sexual intercourse with her without her consent or that he was reckless as to whether she consented to it or not.

    “Accordingly, I find and I order that the accused is not guilty of the charge of rape of the complainant in this trial and he is forthwith discharged thereof.”

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