Utanga’s lawyer, Tudor Clee,
said he was not sure and understood that Utanga had previous counsel.
Earlier, to the sentencing
submissions, an application for discharge without conviction was made by the
Defense lawyer Clee said
there were consequences if Utanga were to be convicted, as he would need to
travel to the United States for family and future business reasons. Clee
highlighted the consequences of a conviction on travel for Utanga.
Crown Law’s Crawford said
Utanga’s conviction would not affect his family’s ability to travel to the
Clee said Utanga had
business in the Cook Islands and New Zealand, but did not have any business in
the US, but might do so in the future.
In relation to the discharge
without conviction application, Crawford noted that defense lawyer Clee said
they accepted the aggravating factors, and in turn, the Crown accepted the
mitigating factors, including good character and the fact that Utanga had
However, she said they had
noticed that the counselling had not led anywhere, and they had not seen any
real impact, “given his continued lack of insight, and lack of remorse”.
She argued that this was a
domestic violence matter, and that discharging Utanga without a conviction
would not hold him accountable for the harm done to the victim.
“In the Crown’s view,
discharging the defendant without conviction would not hold them accountable
for the harm done, nor promote a sense of responsibility, nor would it denounce
such conduct or provide for the interests of the victim.”
Utanga was alleged to have
assaulted his former partner, Melarnie Manuela, on five separate occasions over
two days between July 10 and 11, 2022.
The jury reached a unanimous
decision on three charges, two of not guilty and one of guilty relating to an
incident in which Utanga and Manuela got into a tussle in his van, which ended
with her sustaining injuries.
On another charge in which
Utanga was accused of smacking her across the face with an open palm, the jury
returned a majority guilty verdict. On a charge of kicking the victim, he was
found not guilty through a majority verdict.
The two unanimous not guilty
verdicts related to him pulling her out of bed and hitting her with a
Sammy Mataroa on 15/10/2023
It's disheartening to read that the sentencing of Joshua Utanga has been adjourned once again. Domestic violence cases like this must be taken seriously, as the harm caused to the victim cannot be understated. Though it's not surprising that his defense lawyer is seeking a discharge without conviction due to potential consequences on Joshua's travel and business prospects, we must not lose sight of the importance of holding him accountable for his actions.
The Crown Law senior counsel makes a valid point that discharging Joshua without a conviction would not promote a sense of responsibility or denounce such conduct, which is crucial in domestic violence cases. Moreover, if the counseling he underwent hasn't shown any signs of real impact or remorse, it raises questions about his commitment to change.
It's important to prioritize the interests of the victim and ensure those who commit acts of domestic violence face appropriate repercussions for their actions. The Cook Islands High Court should focus on sending a clear message against domestic violence while still considering mitigating factors when determining Joshua's final sentence.