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Careless driver convicted following jury trial

Saturday 16 September 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Court, National


Careless driver convicted following jury trial
Cook Islands High Court. Photo: Sian Solomon/21110511

A woman who denied the charge of careless driving causing injury has been found guilty by a jury at the High Court in Avarua.

Heather Joy Webber-Aitu was represented by defence lawyer Norman George and will appear for sentencing on September 28.

She appeared before a jury and Justice Colin Doherty at the High Court in Avarua on Wednesday and Thursday.

The matter had been before the courts for nearly two years.

She was convicted for carelessly driving on the main road in Tupapa, causing injury to the victim Lalagofaatasi Williams on March 1, 2021.

The jury reached a unanimous verdict on Thursday and Justice Doherty ordered a probation report to be ready by the sentencing date.

Crown Law senior prosecutor Jamie Crawford, in her closing submission said the case was a short trial and Webber-Aitu had elected to give evidence.

She told the jurors to focus on what happened on the road outside the Hartel Store.

She said the defendant did her own investigations, but that was her version of the events and they must decide whether it was credible, or was she a reliable witness.

Crawford said the defendant would not accept the facts and stressed that the bike crashed into her.

She said the defendant had tried denying any fault and shifted the blame to the victim.

The facts earlier reported were that the victim, Lalagofaatasi Williams was driving to the Tems Store while the defendant left work in Avarua and stopped outside the Hartel Store.

She said the victim saw the defendant but she (defendant) was not indicating to turn right.

She said the victim slowed down and kept driving when the defendant made a turn and hit the victim’s bike.

The victim had a broken arm and had lacerations.

Crawford said the victim was a credible and honest witness.

George, the defendant’s lawyer, said the wrong person was charged.

In his closing submissions he said that the jurors must consider all the facts and evidence.

He said they must ask if the motorcycle had a proper warrant of witness, did the police inspect the damages, and claimed that three witnesses saw the bike being removed from the scene.

He claimed police evidence was unreliable.

George further said the victim, claiming to be a servant of God was dependent on her religious affiliation to boost her credibility.

He said the victim was driving at a speed which could have been 60 kmph and not 40kmph.

Justice Doherty said Webber- Aitu was not required to give evidence or bring other witnesses.

He said it was the Crown who had to prove the charge beyond reasonable doubt.

He told the jurors that the issue was whether the defendant was careless in her driving.

He told the jury to focus on what happened at the time of the event.