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Wednesday 25 October 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Court, National


Tourism operator gets probation for assault on ex-partner following trial
Cook Islands High Court. Photo: Sian Solomon/21110511

Domestic violence will be viewed seriously by the Courts in the Cook Islands after a High Court Judge yesterday quashed an application for discharge without conviction.

This was a clear message from Justice Judith Potter as she sentenced Rarotonga businessman Joshua Utanga, 35, to 12 months’ probation at the High Court in Avarua on Tuesday.

Utanga appeared before Justice Dame Judith Potter via audio visual link with his defence lawyer Tudor Clee.

Justice Potter also dismissed an application for a discharge without conviction.

The court heard that earlier this month, Clee on behalf of his client Utanga, had made an application for a discharge without conviction.

Utanga was found guilty on two counts of assault on a female following a four-day jury trial on July 27.

Justice Potter confirmed on Tuesday that Utanga was convicted on July 27.

Justice Potter in reading the facts of the case said in July of 2022, the victim was six weeks pregnant when she and her partner at the time, Utanga were home and had a conversation about the house being untidy.

The victim was breastfeeding her daughter when Utanga had smacked her face, resulting in a nose bleed.

The next day, upon driving home from work, they had again argued, when Utanga told the victim to get out of the car on three occasions.

On the third occasion Utanga got out of the car and pushed the victim out of the car resulting in bruising.

Also read:

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Accused denies assaulting his ex-partner

Defendant told cops he loved his partner, wanted to seek counselling

Pregnant mum speaks of being assaulted while holding infant daughter in her arms    

Justice Potter said lawyer Clee said the offence was moderate to lower level offending, and they accepted the aggravating factor, but emphasised the mitigating factors of this being Utanga’s first offence, he is a successful businessman with sporting success also.

The Crown maintained the offence was moderate to high.

Justice Potter said there were two incidents of physical abuse where the victim was in her early stages of a second pregnancy.

She said Utanga showed no remorse and continued to blame and shame the victim.

“Cook Islands Courts clear message is domestic violence is unacceptable.”

In her sentencing submissions, Crown Law senior prosecutor Jamie Crawford said Utanga displayed no insight, no remorse, the only remorse he showed was for the situation he found himself in.

Clee argued for a fine to be imposed on Utanga.

However, Crawford did not agree that domestic violence should be dealt with by imposing a fine.

Justice Potter rejected that a fine should be an appropriate penalty.

Justice Potter sentenced Utanga with conditions to surrender his passport, not to leave Cook Islands without the approval of the High Court and attend any counselling as directed by Probation Services.

Utanga has been allowed to travel to New Zealand tomorrow, October 26, and must return before December 31 and report to Probation Services.