NEWS

Priest Acquitted

Magistrate Bainivalu said there may be other Acts and Regulations that would empower the Prime Minister to impose directives of compliance to members of the public, however, in respect to the alleged charge, against Naduva, again such directives must be given by the Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services prohibiting any form of gathering.
12 Mar 2021 20:25
Priest Acquitted
Father Fabiano Dakai Naduva

A Catholic priest of Levuka, who was charged for disobedience of lawful order, for holding a church service for more than 20 people, has been acquitted by the Magistrates Court in Levuka.

Father Fabiano Dakai Naduva was charged by the Police with one count of disobedience of lawful orders. It was alleged that Naduva, with others on March 22, 2020, at Levuka, without lawful excuse gathered at Tokou Church for the purpose of church service which failed to comply with the order issued by the Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services prohibiting any form of gathering.

The matter had proceeded to trial on October 14, 2020, and the Police prosecutor had called three witnesses, namely Sergeant Qauqau Mataitoga, Police Constable Iliesa Baravilala and Isireli Lino.

After the prosecution’s case, the defence lawyer, Rose Drau, from Howards Lawyers, filed a no case to answer application.

 

Background

The ruling stated that Sergeant Mataitoga in his evidence testified that on March 22, 2020, between 10am and 11am, Constable Baravilala called to inform him about a church service at Tokou. He stated that he did not physically go to the church at Tokou, but he instructed Constable Baravilala to confirm the number gathered in the church service whether it was 20 or less; and see if there was any breach on the orders issued by the Prime Minister.

Constable Baravilala had told Sergeant Mataitoga that there were more than 100 people at the church service.

Sergeant Mataitoga had testified that before the incident took place, he did not inform Naduva the restrictions of more than 20 people gathering.

He had stated that there was an order issued by the Prime Minister and they went around the island and told everyone.

He had further testified that the order was informed to a priest, Father Lino, but confirmed to the court that he had not informed Naduva.

In his cross examination, Sergeant Mataitoga testified that he did not take the order given by the Prime Minister neither he had shown in court when being asked.

Constable Baravilala in his evidence had testified that after the service, he had questioned Naduva of why he conducted the service when there was a warning for only 20 people. He told the court that Naduva told him that he went there to attend his mass on Sunday morning worship. Magistrate Tomasi Bainivalu in his ruling said it was crystal clear that there was nowhere on the print out to indicate the name of the Prime Minister giving that order.

He added that when it was put to Sergeant Mataitoga that the Prime Minister did not have the power under the Public Health Act and such made the arrest unlawful; the Sergeant maintained that the arrest was lawful, but he failed or prosecution failed to satisfy such elements.

 

Magistrate rules

Magistrate Bainivalu said there may be other Acts and Regulations that would empower the Prime Minister to impose directives of compliance to members of the public, however, in respect to the alleged charge, against Naduva, again such directives must be given by the Permanent Secretary for Health and Medical Services prohibiting any form of gathering.

He added that the court was a creature of statute or barred, therefore it also had its duty to see at least the due process of arresting Naduva on the alleged offence of disobedience of lawful orders, did follow and or comply with the rule of law.

Therefore, Magistrate Bainivalu ruled that prosecution failed to adduce any reliable or credible evidence to establish or prove an essential element in the alleged offence.

He added that the prosecution’s main witness, Sergeant Mataitoga’s evidence had been so discredited as a result of the cross examination and was so manifestly unreliable that no reasonable tribunal could safely convict on it.

He ruled that there was no case to answer in the case and acquitted Naduva accordingly.

 

 

 

 



Five Square


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