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Boxer fined $500 for bong

Monday September 18, 2017 Written by Published in Local

Local boxer Latini Monga was fined $500 after pleading guilty to possessing a utensil for drug use when she appeared before Justice Patrick Keane in the Avarua High Court last Thursday.

 

Monga, who was making her second appearance in court, was represented by defence lawyer Charles Petero.

The court was told that in May this year Monga drove through a police checkpoint and was asked to produce her vehicle’s warrant of fitness and her driver’s licence. When Monga lifted the seat of the bike, police spotted a bong – a filtration device used for smoking cannabis.

Monga immediately denied it was hers – a stance she maintained in court last week.

“You (Monga) admitted to owning the motorcycle, but denied the bong was yours,” Justice Keane said.

“Your position is that you lent your motorcycle to various friends the night before and you believe one of them may have left it there.

“However, you have accepted that because the motorcycle is yours, and because there were no other candidates, you must accept ownership for the bong.”

In his verbal submissions, Petero quoted several letters which spoke highly of Monga’s character and her focus as an up-and-coming boxer.

“These references are helpful in demonstrating to the court the character of Miss Monga, she is honest and trustworthy, she is not the type of person to get mixed up with drugs. That is just not her character.

“Her character is one in which she is honest and focused. She has the chance to represent the Cook Islands but she realises that the predicament that she finds herself in today may taint that dream,” Petero said.

Following defence’s brief submissions, lawyer Wilkie Rasmussen, who was in court on an unrelated case, stood and asked if he might offer some insight.

“I am president of the Cook Islands Boxing Association and I stand because she is one of the young people that has been selected by the Cook Islands boxing association to represent the Cook Islands in the Oceania Preliminary boxing, by which she will ultimately represent the Cook Islands.

“She is clearly one of the best boxers we (the Cook Islands) have and there is an ongoing programme set up, that will aid her in representing the Cook Islands in the Commonwealth Games and South Pacific games.

“I just felt obliged to say something in reference to her potential,” Rasmussen added.

Keane said that at the age of 28, Monga was appearing in court for the first time, reiterating that she appeared still denying actual ownership of the utensil.

“Nonetheless you have expressed regret that this has happened,” Keane said.

“I do accept that this offending was out of character. You come from a close and supportive family in New Zealand, who along with your character references were surprised at this offending.

“Your coaches speak highly of you, not only as a boxer, but as a person.

“However possession of cannabis and possession of utensils are serious offences in the Cook Islands and (are) offences against the Narcotics and Misuse of Drugs Act, 2004.

“I have been supplied a range of decisions taken here (Cook Islands) that demonstrate that to be so. Additionally the Chief Justice recently highlighted the starting point of such offences is imprisonment.

“In your case however, because you are a first time offender, and because the offence is so completely out of character, because a conviction in itself for you is a serious matter and it could have an impact on your ability to box I consider that a fine is the right penalty to impose on you.

“I have reviewed the cases where fines have been imposed and I consider that within that range, a fine of $500 is appropriate for your case.”

Monga was also fined court costs of $50.