A “low level street dealer” convicted of dealing and possession of cannabis has been given 13 months’ jail.
Rhys Bromley Munro-Manu appeared for sentencing at the High
Court in Avarua on Thursday before Justice Colin Doherty.
Munro-Manu’s case stretches back to 2019 and there were
tears in court as Justice Doherty asked the registrar to hand the defendant
tissues as he stood at sentencing.
Family members, including the defendant’s mother, were
Crown lawyer Jamie Crawford described Munro-Manu as a low
level street dealer.
Defence lawyer Mark Short said he had only been approached
by the defendant last week to represent him at sentencing.
While the case had been on the books for several years,
Munro-Manu had wanted to enter a guilty plea in order to provide closure.
The defendant had a 10-year-old daughter and had been
exposed to cannabis at a young age.
His parents had separated and he was “trying to find his way
He had tried working overseas and had returned to Rarotonga.
Short said his client was a hard worker and could be relied
on. Munro-Manu was well liked and a letter of reference from his employer at
the Nautilus Resort Rarotonga was provided.
He was described as a valued member of the team while a
letter of reference from Member of
Parliament for Ngatangiia,
Tukaka "Kaka" Ama described him as an integral part of the rugby
His father had been described as a rugby league legend in
Short said Munro-Manu accepted responsibility and had been
Before addressing Munro-Manu, Justice Doherty asked the
registrar to hand him some tissues as he was visibly upset.
The court heard police conducted an investigation into drug
dealing on Rarotonga in 2019.
Munro-Manu was one of a number of people targeted.
He was suspected of dealing locally grown and imported cannabis and upon a search, police found 11 foils of cannabis on him, plus a bag of cannabis and $275.
A further search of his phone records showed he had offered
to sell cannabis multiple times over several months.
While he had been waiting four years for resolution, part of
it was his denial of wrong doing and partly because of the investigation,
Justice Doherty said.
Munro-Manu had no previous convictions and his mother was in
court supporting him.
He lived with his partner and had good employment at a
Justice Doherty said Munro-Manu had promise and contributed
to the community but the aggravating feature was the length of time and number
of attempts he made to sell cannabis.
“You had quite an intensive operation going.’
The Crown had recommended a jail sentence of between 18
months and two years.
Starting at 24 months, he was given a discount for a guilty
plea and a further three months for other consideration.
Justice Doherty ordered him to serve 12 months of probation
upon his release from jail.
“I’m impressed you have taken the approach you have; I wish
you luck on your release.”
Munro-Manu was the fourth person to be locked up for
cannabis related convictions in the Cooks last week.
Utariki Bishop, Samuel Marsters Ioane and Quinton Alas
Schofield were given sentences ranging between seven and eight months in
relation to the massive cannabis bust on Aitutaki in 2022.
Seven men have now
been jailed in relation to Operation Tuvake, launched in 2020 due to concerns
of Cook Islands Police regarding cannabis drug dealing activities by members of
the Cook Islands community in Aitutaki.
Cook Islands News
has asked Police for the costs of the two-year investigation, which culminated
with 20 police officers from Rarotonga arriving on Aitutaki in the early hours
of January 13, 2022 to execute search warrants on nine properties.
Eight people were
arrested as police seized cannabis plants, branches, pre-cut aluminium foils
used for selling, drug utensils, cannabis seeds, various amounts of cash
including foreign currency, and potting mix soil and other items as evidence of
Last week, Office of
the Prime Minister chief of staff Ben Ponia told Cook Islands News the final
draft report and a plan for a medicinal cannabis regime has been completed.
Ponia said once
comments had been consolidated, committee chair, Tingika Elikana, will issue a
media statement, possibly this week.