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Prosecution Unaware Of Estimated Value Of Navy Ship That Ran Aground

Prosecution Unaware Of Estimated Value Of Navy Ship That Ran Aground
July 11
11:08 2018

The Prosecution in the General Court Martial against four Fijian Navy Officers charged with neglecting to perform a duty said yesterday they were unaware of the estimated value of the RFNS Kiro, which ran aground on Belcher Rock on July 14, 2016.

Prosecutor, Captain Aisea Paka, was questioned by Judge Advocate Lieutenant-Colonel Jiten Singh during proceedings yesterday about the value of the ship to which he responded saying there was no mention of its value when the summary of evidence was conducted.

Captain Paka was then informed by the second accused, 29962 Lieutenant Samuela Cikaitoga, that the vessel was given through aid from Australia.

Lieutenant Cikaitoga is charged alongside 28726 Lieutenant-Commander Saula Tuilevuka, 30594 Lieutenant Ben Salacakau and 33305 Ensign Mike Brown.

They all pleaded guilty to charges of neglecting to perform their duty, which led to the running aground of the vessel at 5:45am near Makuluva Island and Nukulau Island.

Labelled as “a total loss” to the Fijian Navy, the ship has since been unsalvageable and is no longer operational.

While presenting sentencing submissions in Court, Captain Paka invited the President of the Court Martial, Commander Netani Sukanaivalu, Judge Advocate Lieutenant-Colonel Singh, and panel members Lieutenant-Commander Enele Ma’afu, Lieutenant-Commander Jeke Vakararawa, Major Valu Raumakita and Lieutenant-Colonel Jone Tavainavesi to consider the Sentencing and Penalties Act of 2009 along with Section 71 of the Army Act of 1955.

Captain Paka said the charges were novel to sentencing Courts in Fiji and precedence was yet to be set.

He quoted Section 71 of the Army Act and invited the Court to consider the following penalties when deciding an appropriate sentence.

The penalties range from the death penalty (which is not available in Fiji under the Constitution), imprisonment not exceeding two years, dismissal with disgrace from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, dismissal from service, detention for a term not exceeding two years, forfeiture of seniority, reduction to rank or any less reduction in rank, fine, severe reprimand, reprimand, in the case of an offence which has occasioned any expense, loss or damage, stoppages, and such minor punishments as may from time to time be authorised by the Defence counsel.

Captain Paka told the Court Martial that as a general principle of sentencing, a Court may not impose a more serious sentence unless it is satisfied that a lesser or alternative sentence will not meet the objectives of sentencing.

He said sentences of imprisonment should be regarded as the sanction of last resort taking into account all other matters.

He encouraged the court to consider the nature and gravity of the offence, the degree of culpability and the accused’s conduct during trial which indicated remorse or a lack of remorse on their part.

Furthermore, he cited a United Kingdom case which saw four Navy Officers charged with neglecting a Navy Ship called the HMS Nottingham, which ran aground on July 7, 2002, on Wolf Rock near Lord Howe Island, off the coast of Australia.

All four Officers in the HMS Nottingham case pleaded guilty to the offence and were given penalties ranging from reprimand, severe reprimand and dismissal from ship.

Captain Paka submitted to the Court to consider other alternative penalties, since there was no provision for dismissal from ship and discharge to shore postings in the Fijian jurisdiction.

He said the men in the HMS Nottingham case were not given prison terms because they had taken a progressive approach and pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

The aggravating factors of the case were that as senior officers, Lieutenant-Commander Tuilevuka, Lieutenant Cikaitoga and Lieutenant Salacakau should have known better at the time of the incident and their lives as well as the lives of the men on board the RFNS Kiro on July 14, 2016, were put at risk.

Prosecution submitted that fortunately no injuries were noted and there were no deaths recorded.

On the issue of fines, Captain Paka said the Court Martial could not impose a fine of more than 28 days’ worth of the accused’s salary.

The accused men will be sentenced tomorrow at the Court House at Queen Elizabeth Barracks in Nabua.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce

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