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11 November 2022

Burglar with more than 60 convictions given jail time

Tuesday 11 April 2023 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Court, National

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Burglar with more than 60  convictions given jail time
Photo: ISTOCK

A man who was released from jail following a five-year stretch for burglary has been sent back for similar offending.

Rimaati Junior Iotua, labelled a career criminal, was given three months’ jail when he appeared in court at Avarua for sentencing on burglary and two contempt of court charges.

In sentencing him last week, Justice of the Peace John Whitta said Iotua, 32, had a long criminal history.

He had continued to commit offences since 2006, and when looking at weighing up probation options with his criminal history, a custodial sentence was appropriate.

The court heard Iotua entered a motel unit in Rarotonga about 1am on August 19 last year through a window where he was captured by CCTV walking around inside.

He took a couple of items. 

When questioned later by police, he refused to give a statement.

He entered no plea when he appeared in court and was given bail conditions but breached them on two occasions.

The court heard Iotua was caring for an eight-month old infant and his partner was working to support the family.

They were struggling.

Defence lawyer Mark Short said he had been asked by Minister of Corrective Services George “Maggie” Angene to consider keeping Iotua out of jail and that he would “take him under his wing”.

Minister Maggie knew a lot about the defendant and said he needed some guidance, Short said.

If Iotua went to jail, his partner would lose her job.

“He is no stranger to this court, he has made some bad decisions.”

Short said there were no high ticket items taken in the burglary, just a soft drink and biscuits.

“You had only just been released from a long sentence,” JP Whitta told him.

Iotua was jailed for five years and nine months in 2015 after pleading guilty to 15 charges of burglary committed over 10 months from July 23, 2013.

Thefts involved $9000 cash and valuable items such as smartphones and iPads. 

At the time Iotua also pleaded guilty to one charge of escaping from custody and another of possessing a utensil for drug use, adding nine months to his sentence.

Though aged just 24 at the time, Iotua had previously been jailed eight times, notching up 61 convictions, many involving burgling tourist accommodation.

In his 2015 sentencing notes, former Chief Justice Sir Hugh Williams said nearly all of Iotua’s offences had targeted tourists, and that was the most despicable aspect of his offending.

The Crown had pointed to the fact that burglary was an ongoing and major problem in the Cook Islands, impacting on the security not only of the entire Rarotonga community, but on tourism, a major stream in the Cook Islands economy.

“So burglars in the Cook Islands need to recognise the sentences are steadily increasing and will continue to increase until burglary no longer becomes such a prevalent offence.”

JP Whitta, in sentencing Iotua on Wednesday, ordered him to complete 12 months of probation, not to consume alcohol or enter licenced premises, and not to leave the Cook Islands.