He made the comment after Chresna Whidyantoro made a plea to be let off without a conviction when he appeared in court recently on a charge of assault on a female.
While Whitta eventually discharged the Indonesian national without a conviction on the grounds that the assault had been minor, he gave the defendant a stern warning, as well as ordering him to pay $50 court costs, plus $20 medical costs.
The court heard that the defendant, who works very long hours, had been at his home at the time of the incident. A woman from his own country and village had come to his house and had allegedly made a lot of noise.
“He (Chresna) called out to ask her to be quiet, but she didn’t (respond). In frustration he picked up some pliers and chucked them at a container. Unfortunately for him, the pliers bounced back onto the complainant’s arm,” defence lawyer Mark Short told the court.
Short said he had struggled to communicate with the Indonesian community, as they were afraid their work permits might be revoked if they gave evidence in court.
“I was hoping to get people who actually witnessed the incident to come forward, but they seem petrified. They don’t want to have anything to do with the authorities because they are worried that they may be deported.
“In addition to this, and what makes this case a bit unusual, is that he straight away apologised, but the complainant decided to try and get some money out of the situation by essentially blackmailing him.
“She messaged my client and said ‘If you pay me $500 I’ll make sure the police don’t take the charges any further’.
“I had to explain to the defendant that he couldn’t do that, it’s extortion,” Short said.
Short said he was concerned about the major consequences of a conviction on his client’s work visa, which he said would greatly outweigh the crime.
“I have had several discussions with the head of Immigration and they are now going to be noting down convictions – which for Chresna, would have an impact on his ability to work here.
“He is a very quiet, impressionable young man, who sends money back home to his family in Indonesia and he has a good reputation in the Cook Islands.
“I am asking that the court considers a discharge without conviction, I ask you to consider the repercussions in terms of immigration.
“I believe this matter should really have been sorted outside of court.
“This wasn’t intentional; it was simply unfortunate that the pliers landed on the complainant.”
Short said he was seeking a discharge without conviction under the Criminal Procedures Act.
Whitta then addressed both Short and Chresna, who stood alongside a translator.
“For something that is, on paper, quite a simple matter, there is quite a bit to consider here.
“I do however have a problem with the simple fact that because someone is an overseas worker – that this plays a crucial role in deciding whether they be granted a discharge without conviction or not.
“Granting a discharge without conviction, on simply this fact would give people, just in this particular instance, a huge advantage over another group and that’s not really what the justice system is trying to achieve.
“I’m not saying it shouldn’t be taken into consideration, but it probably shouldn’t be the main driving force behind whether or not this man be convicted.
Whitta said the summary of facts showed the “assault” had been of a “very very” minor nature.
“On this note, I am disregarding the issues of his overseas work permit and I am going to accept a discharge without conviction, simply on basis of the facts.
“Hopefully the unpleasantness of this experience means we will never see (the defendant) in here again.”