Editorial: Balcony brute rightly held responsible

Thursday November 14, 2019 Written by Published in Editorials

Times were, an English gentlemen who ran down a beggar in the street with his horse and trap could get off by pleading that he was under the influence of gin.


Times were, a man who brutally beat his wife was given a discounted sentence when he claimed she was a nag and had driven him to distraction.

Those days, thank the Lord, are mostly over – and the judges of the Court of Appeal have made that plain in a resounding and emphatic decision this week.

The justices increased Ratu Savenaca Virivirisai’s prison sentence to four years, saying the sentencing judge had been wrong to discount his jail time because his lawyer claimed he was drunk and had been provoked.

To refresh your memory, this was the trial of Virivirisai for grievous bodily harm on his former friend, and assaulting his own partner.

Virivirisai claimed he saw Etati Vero touch his partner on her thigh – so he bashed Vero, kicked him, then threw him headfirst over the 2.8 metre balcony. Virivirisai then chased his fleeing partner and punched her in the head.

It should be noted that the Court of Appeal accepted defence lawyer Norman George’s argument that Cook Islands is a Christian community and more forgiving than others. It also accepted provocation might sometimes still be a defence here.

But even allowing for that, the Court said it was still a bridge too far to consider that Virivirisai’s claimed unhappiness caused him to assault Vero. “Mr Virivirisai’s action of throwing [Vero] off the balcony was so disproportionate to any perceived insult or slight, a minute earlier, as to render it irrelevant as a mitigating factor.”

Further, the Court rejected the plea for mitigation because he was drunk. “Mr Virivirisai was a mature adult,” Justice David Williams said. “His intoxication was irrelevant.”

Grown-ups who choose to drink to excess must be held responsible for their actions; mature adults who lash out must be accountable for their actions.

And a mature nation is right to hold them to account.

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