Supreme Court dismisses all charges after evidence of false testimony and beatings by prison officers

    Kei 'asi 'a e tō'onga 'ikai fakasivilaise mei he kau sela' hono tā 'o e kau pōpula fakamālohi'i ke nau lea 'o iku loi ai ha ni'ihi pōpula ke nau hao mei he fa'ahinga tautea fakamamahi ko 'eni 'oku kei fai 'i Tonga'. Kuo tuku ange ‘e Fakamaau Lahi Laki Niu ‘a Saimone Vaka mei he tukuaki’i na’a ne fai ha hia fakasōtoma ‘i pilīsone. Na’e toe mahino ne tā ‘e he kau sela’ ‘a Vaka pea pehē ki he toko taha lāunga’ ko Lisiate Lakalaka. Na’e hola ‘a Lakalaka mei he pilīsone pea ‘i hono ma’u’ ne tā ia ‘e he kau sela’ ke lea ko e hā ne hola ai’. Pea ne tala ‘e ia tokua ne fakasōtoma’i ia ‘e Vaka. Ne ‘omi mo Vaka ‘o faka’eke’eke ki he tukuaki’i ‘a Lakalaka pea kalo ia. Ka ne iku tā ai mo ia pea ‘i he tōtu’a ‘a e taa’ ne iku ‘o ne tala ai ‘e ia ko e mo’oni e tukuaki’i ‘a Lakalaka’. Na’e tuku ange fakamaau Niu ‘a Vaka ‘i he’ene tui ne hoko hono taa ke loi ai ka na’e ‘ikai mo’oni ‘a e tukuaki’i ko ‘eni’.

    The Supreme Court has dismissed all charges against a man charged with one count of common assault,  three counts of assault with intent to commit sodomy and three counts of sodomy.

    The court also found that Saimone Vaka had been beaten while in custody and had made a false confession in order to escape further assault by prison officers.

    Vaka had pleaded not guilty to all the charges and elected to be tried by judge without a jury. He chose to represent himself.

    In his summing up of the trial, Judge Niu said Vaka had shown he was well able to defend himself and that he was well prepared with questions to ask and evidence to give and his written submissions showed careful consideration of the relevant matters.

    The Crown called three witnesses:: They were the complainant, Lisiate Lakalaka, the Chief Prison Officer, Ponafasio Vake, and prison officer,Tevita ‘Ilaiii.

    Lisiate Lakalaka, 19, from Lapaha, testified that in March 2018 he was in prison. He claimed that Vaka, who was also a prisoner, sexually assaulted him and threatened to kill him if he complained.

    Lakalaka said that after further sexual assaults he ran away from poison, intending to report what had happened to a relative in the police force. However, while he was on the bus he was recognised and arrested. He was then returned to prison and beaten until he said he had been sexually assaulted by the accused.

    Vaka said he had been brought out and accused. He denied the complaint and said Lakalaka was lying.

    Chief Prison Officer Ponafasio Vake, Tevita ‘Ilaiii, Sergeant Vake, Tau’ataina and Lakalaka were present.

    He said he was told to strip and beaten on the buttocks with three siale mohemohe branches, each piece was about one and a half inches thick and about two and a half feet long. He said that each piece was used until it broke and the last piece was used up to 20 strokes.

    He said he was punched and knocked to the ground and feared that he might die.

    Judge Niu noted that there were discrepancies in Lakalaka’s testimony with regard to the number of assaults and the dates on which they occurred. Despite claims of being restrained by Vaka, he had not suffered any injury.

    Vaka cross-examined Lakalaka on a number of issues where he gave contradictory evidence, including his behaviour during his escape from prison.

    Lakala admitted that he had lied and that Vaka had been arrested and brought to trial on a his false statement. The complainant said that he made up all that he had stated in the statement. He said Vaka had not threatened him at all. Lakalaka said he did not know why he had lied to the prison authorities.

    During the trial prison officers denied that any beatings had taken place.

    Judge Niu said Lakalaka had given contradictory evidence, had lied and had said things in court that went against testimony he gave to the authorities.

    “I found the evidence of the complainant suspect and difficult to accept from the beginning.” Judge Niu said.

    “I accept his evidence that he was beaten by the prison officers to tell them why he had run off.

    “To save his own skin, he lied to the officers. His beating then stopped and his escape from custody was accepted to be justified and he was not charged with escaping. He was released shortly afterwards.

    “The accused was brought out and accused and beaten to confess to acts which never happened.

    “I have accordingly found that the Crown has failed to prove all the charges and I dismiss them all.”

    The main points

    • The Supreme Court has dismissed all charges against a man charged with one count of common assault,  three counts of assault with intent to commit sodomy and three counts of sodomy.
    • The court also found that Saimone Vaka had been beaten while in custody and had made a false confession in order to escape further assault by prison officers.

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