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Nine Ex-Police Officers Jailed for Rape Granted Leave To Appeal

Nine Ex-Police Officers  Jailed for Rape  Granted Leave To Appeal
Appellants’ lawyer Iqbal Khan. Photo: Charles Chambers
July 06
12:06 2017

The High Court in Lautoka has granted an application by nine former Police officers seeking leave to appeal against their conviction and sentence of rape and sexual assault against two men while being held in Police custody.

Each of the nine former officers, Manasa Talala, Seruvi Caqusau, Kelevi Sewatu, Penaia Drauna, Filise Vere, Viliame Vereivalu, Jona Davono, Pita Matairavula and Senitiki Nakatasavu  were charged and convicted for two counts each of rape and a further two counts each of sexual assault.

Talala and Vereivalu were further charged and convicted for defeating the course of Justice. Talala and Caqusau were jailed for eight years with a non parole period of five years; Sewatu and Drauna were sentenced to seven years with a four-year non parole period; Vere, Vereivalu, Davono and Matairavula were sentenced to nine years with a six-year non parole period; and Nakatasavu was sentenced to seven years with a four-year non parole period by trial judge Justice Aruna Aluthge on November 11, last year.

The prosecution had said during the trial that the victims were sexually assaulted with a stick and chillies after their arrest. The two victims were Vilikesa Soko and Senjeli Boila. Soko later died from the injuries he sustained.

The appellants’ lawyer, Iqbal Khan, had filed 37 grounds against the conviction of the men and two against the sentencing.

The grounds of appeal varied and dealt with almost all the steps which transpired at the trial, namely the ‘Voir Dire’ inquiry, ruling on ‘No Case to Answer’, the ruling on ‘Recusal’, the ruling regarding ‘Costs’ on the nine men and their lawyer, the evidence led at the trial, summing up, burden of proof, the judgment and sentence of the trial judge.

“When there are so many grounds of appeal set out in a notice of appeal, specially covering all aspects of the trial, it would be necessary to consider the totality of the evidence and the proceedings to consider granting of leave,” Resident Justice of Appeal Suresh Chandra said.

He said the respondent, the state, represented by lawyer Lee Burney of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions had taken up the position that nine grounds of the appeal were not arguable by virtue of inherent vagueness and lack of particularity while the other 30 grounds lacked merit and hence were not arguable.

Justice Chandra said in such cases, it would be appropriate to adopt the approach of Marshall J in Singh vs State (2019) which stated – “In respect of conviction, I must not make any decision on the appeal but I find that proposed grounds of appeal are properly arguable (as opposed to barely arguable and not arguable) the application meets the threshold for leave. Once the threshold is reached, in my view is that the appellant should be free to advance arguments in the Court of Appeal without attempting to restrict him on the basis that leave is granted only in respect of some but not all grounds of appeal.

“The Court of Appeal is well able in my opinion to sort out ‘the wheat from the chaff’ when it comes to focusing on what are more or less non arguable grounds of appeal.”

Justice Chandra said: “The application of the appellants seeking leave to appeal against conviction and sentence is granted.”

However, he refused bail pending appeal and ordered that the appeal be taken up for hearing at the earliest possible session of the Court of Appeal.

Edited by Naisa Koroi


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