Samoa Court adjourns Prime Minister’s private prosecution trial

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Samoa District Court Judge Alalatoa Rosela Papalii reluctantly granted another adjournment in the hearing of Prime Minister Fiamē Naomi Mataafa’s private prosecution trial.

She granted the adjournment but also noted that it would be the final adjournment.

Mata’afa is charged with one count of bribery from the FAST party campaign rally in the lead up to the April general election and the hearing was set for Monday after two adjournments in May and September.

Judge Alalatoa reminded both parties via email that if there were any preliminary matters to be dealt with, to inform the Court by Tuesday last week.

However, she was only informed of the application just before she came to preside over the trial.

After discussion with the District Court Senior Judge Talasa Atoa Sagaga, both agreed to call the matter and take it from there.

Counsel for the defendant, Kieran Raftery QC apologised to the Court and said the application was filed last Friday.

The application for the adjournment was for him to have time to get instructions from his client. He did not know about Samoa’s public holiday last week when he scheduled to have a zoom meeting with his client then.

The meeting was later rescheduled but was deferred by the defendant and by Thursday last week, he contacted counsel for the complainant Aumua Ming Leung Wai if he would agree to an adjournment.

Aumua informed the Court that he agreed to the adjournment on the basis of a fair trial given that defence counsel had not received any instructions from his client.

Judge Alalatoa was concerned that the charge has been around since 14 May 2021.

“It’s been hovering over the defendant for quite some time and if we consider the provision of Article 91 of the Constitution, it is stated that any defendant charged with any criminal offence including this one, although it is brought as a private prosecution, must be brought before the court of law for the matter to be dealt with at a reasonable time, “said Judge Alalatoa.

She further stated that she was concerned about the constitutional rights of the defendant to a fair trial, and provide more time for the defence to prepare for the trial so that she is not prejudiced nor handicapped by counsel not being prepared to represent the defendant.

The hearing is now scheduled for 13 and 14 December 2021, but not before the Judge informed counsel of the changes the Court will have to make to accommodate other matters already scheduled for hearing and the fact that his service was not cheap to the client.

Mata’afa is jointly charged with other Cabinet Ministers, Leatinu’u Wayne Fong and Laaulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Schmidt who will appear in Court today….PACNEWS

SOURCE: TALAMUA ONLINE/PACNEWS