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18 months’ jail for forgery

Wednesday March 20, 2019 Written by Published in Crime

Petrena Tiatoa was sentenced to 18-months imprisonment by the Cook Islands High Court yesterday.


Tiatoa appeared before Chief Justice Sir Hugh Williams QC charged with forgery, after being accused of taking a cheque that belonged to a prominent woman.

The cheque was signed and Tiatoa wrote the figures amounting to $2000 and wrote it as a cash cheque.

Defence counsel Wilkie Rasmussen in his submissions said the defendant pleaded guilty on the matter.

Rasmussen said for a long time the defendant was a frequent offender, she was homeless at the worst of times, she had a partner and the two of them were living and sleeping on the beach and stealing to survive. Rasmussen in reading a letter from Tiatoa said: “I stand here before you with a positive mind-set that this will be the last time I appear in court now.

I have been in prison for six months now in sentence and remand.  I sincerely apologise to the court for my crimes.”

Rasmussen said the defendant has had the opportunity in prison to realise the impact of her actions. Chief Justice Williams said: “At the age of 19, you are here for sentence on one charge of forgery of a cheque.

“The cheque was undated, you wrote the date in, the cheque was a blank one, you wrote the word cash and the amount of $2000, cashed it and used the proceeds for food and other items.”

He said the maximum penalty would be 10 years’ imprisonment.

“You pleaded guilty to other offences and convicted by the Justices of the Peace in a sentence to prison for 10 months with probation to follow.”

He said at 19 years of age, she has been convicted on a number of occasions - such as seven charges of burglary and four other offences of contempt of court - and had other convictions for driving while disqualified and driving in excess of blood alcohol. He said the defendant was probably in desperate need, but it was her own fault. Probation recommended a custodial sentence. Chief Justice Williams said this was a serious offence and said she would be held accountable for the criminal behaviour, but gave her credit for her letter of apology and guilty plea.

Tiatoa was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.

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