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Court denies request to further relax bail conditions

Friday 26 August 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Court, National

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Court denies request to further relax bail conditions
Cook Islands High Court. Photo: Sian Solomon/21110511

A man who evaded the police for a week has been denied a request to further relax his bail conditions.

Oswell Tunupopo is charged with intent to injure a female. He is yet to enter a plea.

He appeared before Justice of the Peace Vania Kenning at the Criminal Court on Thursday.

Tunupopo is staying at the Cook Islands Gospel Society’s Mission House in Nikao under a 24/7 curfew, with exceptions being on Tuesday and Thursday, where he could be taken to the gym for one hour in the company of the pastor, and from 9am to 4pm on Wednesday, where he can attend supervised work in Tupapa.

On Thursday, Tunupopo’s new defence counsel Norman George asked for further relaxation of his bail conditions to allow him to leave the Cook Islands Gospel Society’s Mission House from 9am to 11am on Monday and 9am to 11am on Friday, in order for Tunupopo to purchase supplies and food.

Crown prosecutor Jamie Crawford disagreed with the proposal, saying it was “chipping away” at strict bail conditions which had been put in place to protect the complainants.

Tunupopo handed himself to the authorities on July 9 after close to a week of evading the police.

Crawford also wondered whether the proposed exemptions for Monday and Friday from 9am to 11am also suggested that the Cook Islands Gospel Society Mission House was not able to provide the suitable amount of care and protection.

“It is clear the church can’t meet his needs,” Crawford said. “He has a history of violence and breaching bail, and there is still a risk of him intimidating the witnesses.”

In response, George told JP Kenning that Tunupopo had been compliant to the curfew and received a good reference from the church pastor.

Tunupopo was facing “petty, nitpicking” conditions, George said.

“This is not Afghanistan or Russia, people have rights and freedoms here,” George said.

“The prosecution’s concerns are hypothetical and unreal.”

In assessing the application for bail, JP Kenning acknowledged the seriousness of the charge.

She denied the request to further relax Tunupopo’s bail conditions.