Slowing justice

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Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Ronald Bei Talasasa
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Director of public prosecutions under scathing attack from Magistrate

BY ALFRED SASAKO

THE Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Ronald Bei Talasasa and one of his officers have come under scathing attack for failing to make timely and informed assessment of a case involving two police officers.

“The failure to make that assessment during the earlier stages of this case goes to show unprofessionalism, incompetency and sloppy prosecution work,” Principal Magistrate Taeburi said in her written judgement last Monday.

She acquitted policemen, David Siau and Alban Tekava on one count of assault causing actual bodily harm last Monday.

“The manner in which the DPP’s office has conducted the prosecution in this matter is a disgrace,” the Principal Magistrate Taeburi said.

Ms Taeburi said the DPP and the prosecutor John Wesley Zoze were aware from day one that the victim did not want to proceed with the case.

“The victim’s evidence is basically that he does not want to proceed with the case. The prosecutor and the Director had known the victim’s position and should have anticipated the outcome of this case.

“There is absolutely nothing in the victim’s evidence in court that goes to say of the elements of the charge of assault causing actual bodily harm. This is not a case where the crown has failed to prove one or two of the elements of the charge.

“In this case, the crown has failed to prove all elements of the charge of assault causing actual bodily harm,” Taeburi said.

She said nothing was forthcoming from the DPP’s Office since a pre-conference was conducted on the matter on September 28 last year.

“The matter was called and mentioned in court about three (3) or four (4) times and the DPP’s position was still the same, namely, that the Crown is still considering whether to proceed with the matter or not,” she said.

“Furthermore, I was told by Mr Zoze that the only person in the DPP’s office who is authorised to make decisions as to whether a charge should be prosecuted or not is the DPP himself,” she said.

Taeburi said she was informed that Mr Talasasa was away in Munda.

“There is no other officer in that office who can make the necessary decisions in the absence of the DPP. So I pose the question, what is going to happen to all the criminal cases in which there is no prospect of success and in which the only ethical decision to make is to apply for a withdrawal?

“Are we going to put a halt on all these cases until such time that Mr Talasasa returns from Munda and is available in office?

“These kinds of decisions are not to be put on halt. This is simply because the wheels of justice never stop. If Mr Talasasa is on holidays or overseas, then another officer within the DPP’s office should be entrusted to make these kinds of decisions.

“This is because the criminal justice system and the operations of the courts do not revolve around the DPP’s timetable.”

Principal Magistrate Taeburi said there were 1, 718 criminal cases that were active in the Central Magistrates Court.

“Having said all of that, I acquit both defendants and they are both free to go.”

Henry Kausimae of the Public Solicitor’s Office represented the defendants in the case.

Meanwhile, in response, DPP Ronald Bei Talasasa said in the ordinary course of business, if the DPP is away overseas or on leave, the Attorney General acts as DPP.

“That is the constitutional structure which is stipulated by the Constitution. In other words, the office of the DPP is not left vacant by the physical absence of the holder of the office.”

When contacted by Island Sun, Mr Talasasa said at this time and age, technology has even made arrangements even easier and convenient.

“Any query or opinion by an officer of the ODPP for the DPP to consider is given a response within a day or so, depending on the timing of the opinion. There is no difference to the process whether the DPP is in country or not; in office or on leave,” Talasasa said.

With regard to making decisions, the process is clear, he adds.

“If the matter goes to court then it means the decision is to go to court, whether or not the complainant or the victim wants the matter withdrawn. For assault cases, only common assault is a reconcilable offence, not assault ocassioning actual bodily harm or other serious charges.”

“Let others know that I do not buy a complainant’s or victim’s request to withdraw a charge. Serious charges are presented in court and the complainant has to testify but if he or she wishes not to proceed, then the appropriate forum to end that matter is within the bowels of court, not on the palm of my hands.

“My officers know that they do not have to wait for my physical presence, as we communicate by emails, telephones, or other means, on a regular basis. I read my emails every hour and respond to office queries accordingly. That is when I am away.

He reiterates that his office does not wait for his physical presence in order to get a decision.

“Neither do I need to go back to the office for a decision to be made. If it appears to any person that there is no control mechanism within the management of cases in the office then I am afraid, it reflects on an erroneous assumption, or perhaps inexperience or ignorance, to say the least.”

Currently, the DPP is in Munda preparing for the murder case involving a young woman who died on March 1, 2015 at Noro, Western Province

The case will be tried next week at Gizo for two weeks.

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