Crime & Court

Suspects Can’t Be Detained For More Than 48 Hours Without Charge: Judge

The High Court yesterday dismissed an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions for an order to detain a murder suspect in Police custody for more than 48-hours.
09 May 2020 12:57
Suspects Can’t Be Detained For More Than 48 Hours Without Charge: Judge
Sailosi Naivalurua outside the Suva Court House on May 8, 2020. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga

The High Court yesterday dismissed an application by the Director of Public Prosecutions for an order to detain a murder suspect in Police custody for more than 48-hours.

Sailosi Naivalurua, 21, was arrested and detained on April 22 at around 9.30am after he surrendered himself at the Valelevu Police Station on a suspected case of assault from Colo-i-Suva in which the victim was injured and hospitalised.

A day later, the victim passed away in hospital at 3.30pm while the accused was in Police custody without being charged or produced in court.

On April 24 at 9.30am the period of 48-hours expired and the suspect was still in custody without a charge.

That is when the DPP filed his application for an order to detain him for three more days.

Though Naivalurua was formally charged with murder, Justice Daniel Goundar gave his ruling on the question of the court’s jurisdiction to order the detention of suspects in Police custody for more than 48-hours without a charge for the purpose of investigations.

Ruling

Justice Goundar said Section 13(1)(f) of the Fijian Constitution does not confer magistrates or judges with the express power to order the detention of suspects for more than 48hours without a charge.

He said the courts were given express powers under the 1970 and 1990 Constitutions to order suspects to be detained in custody without a charge after they have been produced in court however it was removed in the 1997 and 2013 Constitutions.

“The framers of the 1997 and 2013 Constitutions removed that express power and placed a time limit on the detention of persons arrested or detained for criminal investigations,” Justice Goundar said.

“By removing the express authority of the courts, the framers have clearly intended not to give the courts power to order detention of a suspect beyond 48hours without a charge.”

“The 48 hours cap placed on detention of a person without a judicial inquiry is designed to strike a reasonable balance between the individual’s right to liberty and the need for the society to be protected from crime. That is the purpose and intent of the 48-hour rule.”

Justice Goundar said the constitutional protection accorded by Section 13(1)(f) is plain and unambiguous and an arrested or detained person must be produced in court as soon as reasonably possible no later than 48 hours after the arrest.

He stressed that any power that undermines the 48-hour time limit needs to have a constitutional basis.

The application was dismissed for want of jurisdiction.

Edited by Caroline Ratucadra

Feedback: fonua.talei@fijisun.com.fj

Fiji Sun Instagram
Fiji Plus
Subscribe-to-Newspaper