A Nuku’alofa Supreme Judge on Wednesday 6 adjourned with no appointed date for hearing a court case in which the Crown appealed against a decision by the Magistrate Court saying it was inadequate.
It has been revealed the defendant has left for the US and has not returned to Tonga.
The decision came after a Magistrate in 2011 fined and ordered Supileo ‘Uhatafe to pay $100 immediately after Police charged him for causing bodily harm. If he failed to pay the fine he would have served six weeks in jail.
The Magistrate also fined and ordered ‘Uhatafe to pay $50 immediately after Police charged him for assault. Failing to do so would have ended him up in jail for three weeks.
The Crown argued in its appeal that the “sentence imposed was inadequate and did not reflect the gravity of the offence, in that the circumstances of the offence and the impact thereof upon the complainant were not properly considered by the Court in the sentence it imposed.”
“The Crown asked for orders that the sentence be quashed and that the respondent be sentenced by this Court instead.”
The Magistrate decision showed that on 7 February 2011, the charges were read to the respondent and that he pleaded guilty to both of them. The prosecutor then informed the Court that the respondent had no previous criminal record.
“For some unknown reason, the appeal was not forwarded by the Magistrate’s Court to this Court for some 7 years,” Mr Niu said.
“ It was only forwarded on 17 October 2018, after Mr. ‘Aho wrote about it to the Registrar of this Court on 10 October 2018. Mr. ‘Aho says that it was only through routine scrutiny of outstanding files in their office that the oversight to follow up this appeal was discovered.”
According to the court judgement, after Bailiff failed in a number of attempts to notify the respondent of the hearing the Supreme Court was eventually told ‘Uhatafe has left for the US and that there was no indication when, if ever, the respondent would return to Tonga.
Judge Laki Niu said: “The Crown failed in that obligation. It failed for 7 years.”
“I order that this appeal is adjourned sine die, unless the Crown chooses, in the circumstances, to withdraw it.”