Officer who beat cuffed man dismissed from Tonga police despite magistrate giving second chance

A Tongan Police officer has been fired after he punched and kicked a man’s face and stomach while he was being handcuffed.

The final decision was made after a presiding Magistrate allowed him to continue on his job as he was young and took the opportunity to learn from his conviction.

Tēvita Pōhiva was found guilty of one charge of bodily harm, and convicted by Magistrate Sālesi Mafi.

He was ordered to pay $1,000 compensation within one month and in default of payment, he is to serve three months imprisonment with 12 months probation on the condition that he would not commit any further offending.

Pōhiva beats Mr Litili

Pōhiva was on duty on 29 October 2017 patrolling at Vuna Road. He tried to apprehend the complainant, Mr Litili, who was running away from a vehicle, stopped by the Police.

Mr Litili was a passenger in the stopped vehicle. After handcuffing him Mr Pōhiva continued to repeatedly punch his face, part of his stomach and jaw while taking him to the station and while they were outside the police station.

Mr Litili did not pose a threat to Pōhiva at any time, especially after being handcuffed, the Magistrate Court was told.

The ground for sentencing

The Presiding Magistrate Sālesi Mafi  gave the following reasons for sentencing Mr Pōhiva:

  1. The victim had made full recovery from the injury sustained as a result of the offending; and
  2. Mr Pōhiva was a young Police Officer, 21 years old, who relatively new to the Police Force.

“The Magistrate wished to give him a chance to do better. He was warned that he would be subjected to a much harsher sentence if he continued to show such behavior in the future. Conclusion If compensation ordered by the Court has been paid, it is mitigating factor, also noting the reasons given by the Magistrate Court for its decision.

Pōhiva, is remorseful and seeks a second chance”.

Police Board decision

However, the Police took the matter further with the Police Board last month and recommended dismissing Mr Pōhiva.

“The Police Employment Committee concluded that Pōhiva used unnecessary and excessive force on the Complainant”.

The authority said that on 8 December 2021, it  “considered the application by the Tonga Police after hearing Crown Counsel” for Tevita Pōhiva, in person and ordered, “that Constable Tevita Pohiva’s “employment be terminated effective from the date of this decision”, which was December 14, 2021.

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