Friday 10 February 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Court, Crime, National
Just over a week since defence Norman George and Crown lawyer Jamie Crawford argued in court, they were at it again yesterday, before defendant Joshua Nga Utanga’s name was called.
The argument yesterday centred around Utanga’s travel arrangements, as he wanted to go to New Zealand, but Crown was opposed.
When Utanga’s name was called in front of Justice of the Peace Tangi Taoro, the debate continued when George said his client, a businessman, had travelled to New Zealand multiple times while on bail, without a problem.
George referenced Nga Utanga’s February 1 appearance before JP Taoro, and Crawford’s request for his passport to be surrendered.
While George objected at the time, Crawford said it was not a matter of cutting travel, but needing to know where Utanga was.
“She said Crown Law wanted to keep a tag on his movement, he has made an agreement with customers.
“We filed an application to have his passport released,” George said.
George told the court he had been advised the matter was going before a Chief Justice.
“To involve a Chief Justice is beyond the law; I intend to raise it with a Chief Justice to delegate it to JPs, there should be more discretion.
“It is so unnecessary.”
George said his client had paid his airfare and there was an urgency for him to travel.
The Crown had previously sought conditions for Utanga, including not offering violence, no contact with witnesses, not to leave the Cook Islands without permission, and to surrender his passport.
Crawford said they were the usual bail conditions and the charges had been moved to a Chief Justice so they needed to be dealt with by a Chief Justice.
“We don’t oppose him travelling on this application in principle.”
She said what the defence lawyer was presenting was “circumventing”.
JP Taoro said she could understand where Crawford was coming from.
George then asked Crown Law to quote legislation which determined such matters.
Crawford said it was legislated.
George said: “I have been practicing law for 30 years, there has never been a problem with bail, bail is a critical part of our system.”
“To raise this issue without citing legislation is not good enough.
“I beg you to let this man go, I ask you to exercise discretion.”
JP Taoro said it was the first time she had come across such a matter and granted the application.
“Please raise it with the Chief Justice.”
“God save the King,” George said.
Crawford said, in terms of variation, she asked matters to be amended so Utanga would have to surrender his passport again on March 6 when he returned from New Zealand.
JP Taoro accepted the amendment.
Utanga faces five assault on female charges and has entered not guilty pleas while the matter is set to go to a jury trial.
Defence lawyer Mark Short had previously represented Utanga on a single charge of assaulting a female, but it was George who appeared on his behalf on February 1.
During that appearance George told Crawford that charges had been added, and that he would be asking for a jury trial.
Crawford said the matter had already been set down for a defended hearing and witnesses were waiting in court.
The pair continued to argue before going into chambers.
When the matter was called about 15 minutes later, George advised the court he intended to head to a jury trial and enter not guilty pleas to all charges.
Utanga is scheduled to leave the Cook Islands today.