Mu‘a cell shut down after second death in police custody

    A second death this month has led to authority shutting down the cell at Mu’a Police station ‘until further notice’.

    Tonga Police. Photo/Kalino Lātū

    Police said a 22-year-old man from Lapaha was overly intoxicated when he was arrested at around 5.15pm on Saturday, July 23 from a petrol station at the town, following a complaint and call for assistance from staff at the petrol station.

    Police found the young man dead within hours in a police cell where he was placed,” in circumstances indicating suicide”.

    “This is the second death in police custody in only a month,” Commissioner Shane McLennan said.

    “We need to fix our problems, so this will never happen again. As an immediate response to these deaths in custody, I have ordered the following:

    • The Mua Police Cell is shut and is not to be used until further notice.
    • The investigations into all deaths in custody are to be a priority and if needed, further resources/investigators will be provided to assist the Professional Standards Investigators until these investigations are completed.
    • An inspection and assessment of all cells used by Tonga Police across the Kingdom is to occur today, Monday 25 July, followed by the consideration of options needed to remedy any deficiencies with a matter of urgency.
    • The Tonga Police Custody Management Policy is to be reviewed and updated this week.
    • Some in-service training on custody management and human rights, is to be provided to all frontline staff as a matter of priority.” Investigation into this regrettable incident is underway, and an inquest will be held upon completion of the investigation. Contact Police on phone 740-1660 or 922 to report crime.

    The news came after a police investigation was underway after a 69-year-old man died in what had been described as an alleged ‘suicide’ while at Mu’a police custody earlier this month.

    Police said at the time the deceased, was overly intoxicated, and was arrested and detained following a complaint and call for assistance from his wife.


    1. Yet, it doesn’t seem that the ‘organizational culture’ has made a some significant improvement, especially when Police are dealing with the public, and besides that, two deaths in a year in Tonga Police Custody are alarming. What’s the heck is going on with the Policy Custody Management Policy? Not only occurred in Tonga, it’s everywhere. US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand, to name a few. It’s a global issue that needs to be addressed and resolved effectively.


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