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Court gives couple ‘benefit of the doubt’

Saturday April 15, 2017 Written by Published in Crime

A couple who pleaded guilty to a string of burglary and contempt of court charges, along with four other offences, was given the benefit of the doubt by three Justices of the Peace in the Avarua High Court earlier this week.


Petrena Tiatoa appeared on two charges of burglary and one of contempt of court while her partner, Jon Taupupu Rio was charged with escaping from lawful custody, driving with no rear vision mirrors, burglary two counts of contempt of court and one of assault on a female.

The court heard that on September 4, 2016, Tiatoa and Rio broke into The Roadhouse Bar and Grill, Arorangi, where Tiatoa worked, and stole between $2100 and $2400 in cash.

Both parties were represented by Mark Short and entered early guilty pleas.

Short told the court the couple had been faced with many difficulties that had resulted in their criminal offences; however he noted that since then, the pair had been living their life “on the straight and narrow”, moving to Aitutaki to live with Rio’s family and working three jobs between the two of them.

He hoped the court would take this into consideration in sentencing the defendants.

Senior police prosecutor Sergeant Fairoa Tararo recommended three months’ imprisonment for each defendant and that reparations be paid.

Justices of the Peace Carmen Temata, John Whitta, and Bernice Manarangi sentenced the couple individually.

Tiatoa received a non-custodial sentence of 12 months’ probation on both charges, to be served on Aitutaki.

“We note that this is your first appearance, and that both you and your partner are slowly picking up your lives, following your ability to obtain a stable job on Aitutaki,” Temata said.

Special conditions included, that Tiatoa carry out her probation on Aitutaki, must attend counselling, training or workshops as directed by the probation service on Aitutaki and must not leave the Cook Islands without approval from the High Court. She was ordered to repay in the full money she and her partner had stolen.

Rio received a sentence of 24 months’ probation.

Temata told him to listen carefully to her as the court was giving him the chance to take responsibility for his actions.

“Prosecution wanted to put you in prison for three months,” she said. “We are not in support of that as it may hinder what little progress you have made with your life, to date.

“You and your partner are having a baby, so you are going to need to stay on track for that.

Rio told Temata he had learned his lesson.

“It is my first time going through something like this and now I know what it feels like. It ruined my family’s life in Aitutaki, and I don’t want to be like that anymore.

“Thank you so much. For me this will be the first and last…oh well, maybe I will end up back in court, but not for the same stuff.”

Defence counsel Short reacted with a chuckle and a shake of his head.

“No, I don’t want you back in here at all, alright?” Temata replied.

Rio was ordered to serve his 24 months’ probation concurrently with his previous probation sentence and to serve it on Aitutaki.

He must also attend counselling, training and workshops as directed by the probation service, must not leave the Cook Islands without approval from the High Court and has been forbidden to purchase or consume alcohol. He must not enter any liquor-licensed premises other than general stores and restaurants, but was excused from the latter condition for employment purposes.

Rio was also ordered to pay $1200 in reparation and $250 court costs on the five charges with which he was convicted.



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