Samoan leader praises court for valuing ceremony in Tongan manslaughter case

    A Samoan community leader has praised the Auckland High Court for acknowledging a traditional ceremony apology in sentencing a Tongan man who had pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

    Joseph Antonio Halaholo Larson appeared before the High Court in Auckland  charged with manslaughter.

    Larson’s appearance was made after punching Jerico Telea in the face in Easter last year. He pleaded guilty on November 15.

    Telea remained in a coma until Easter Monday when life support was switched off.

    Larson’s Tongan family negotiated with Telea’s Samoan relatives to make a traditional apology through the Samoan custom known as ifoga.

    The New Zealand Herald reported that Larson’s lawyer, Emma Priest,  said his family had done everything possible to make amends and Larson was “held accountable culturally” through ifoga.

    She thanked Telea’s family for their “incredible strength of character” in deciding to forgive Larson.

    Samoan community leader Papaliitele Lafulafu Peo described ifoga as an action of remorse by a wrongdoer’s family performed before the wronged family, Stuff reported.

    He said it was a serious and very emotional event.

    “We prepare fine mats and a member from the wrongdoing side has to bow down and cover his or her body with a fine mat,” Peo reportedly said.

    “Then the rest will just sit silently behind that person. Then we have to wait for a member of the other side. If they want to accept our ifoga, they will come and uncover this person.

    “For a court to value ifoga, I credit the court because it’s part of our culture.”

    Larson was sentenced to one year of home detention and ordered to obtain treatment for alcohol abuse.

    For more information

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