Man heads for airport instead of court

Thursday November 16, 2017 Written by Published in Crime

Having defendants flee the country is nothing new for the Cook Islands Police Service, but it still creates a nuisance for them and for lawyers and Justices of the Peace.

 

In recent times several people charged with a variety of offences have opted to leave the country.

The most recent fugitive was Aukustino Sila who was scheduled to appear in court last Thursday on a charge of driving with excess blood alcohol. It was believed he would enter a plea of guilty.

When he didn’t appear, his lawyer, Wilkie Rasmussen, told Justice of the Peace Georgina Williams he hadn’t known that Sila planned to leave the Cook Islands.

Police Prosecutor Senior Sergeant Fairoa Tararo told Williams he wanted to withdraw the charge as police had received information that Sila was overseas.

Tararo said police would prosecute the defendant when he arrived back in the Cook Islands. Williams granted the application and the matter was dropped.

Albert Manuvavalangi Ratucava appeared on a charge of driving with excess breath alcohol and careless driving causing injury. He was not represented by a lawyer and asked to enter a plea.

He was told that due to the nature of the charges he faced, he would need to seek legal advice. Both Williams and Tararo told Ratucava it would be unwise to make any comments or enter a plea before seeking legal representation.

Ratucava told Williams he had not consumed any alcohol on the night of the incident, when he had been involved in an accident. He claimed the police breathalysers hadn’t been calibrated for “quite some time” and believed the readings were not accurate.

Williams told the defendant he was best to save his explanations for a lawyer. She said she would adjourn the matter and would not be hearing anything more from the defendant.

The matter was adjourned till December 14, to allow Ratucava time to hire a lawyer.

Ratucava then asked if he could defend himself at his next appearance. Williams told him that if he was unable or unwilling to find a lawyer, he would be able to conduct his own defence, despite the fact that a professional would advise against it.

Ratucava did not enter a plea and the matter was adjourned.

As criminal court ended, Williams was informed by the court registrar that there was still a custody case to appear.

It was revealed that the Arorangi Prison wardens had “forgotten” to bring one prisoner to court -recidivist offender Travel Tangianau Moeroa Tuaputa.

A prison warden apologised to the court and returned to the prison to drop off inmates who had already appeared and to collect Tuaputa.

Tuaputa later appeared before Williams on a charge of burglary. The JP told the court the defendant was represented by Mark Short. However due to the earlier confusion the lawyer had left, leaving the defendant temporarily un-represented.

The matter was adjourned until today.

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