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Monday 29 May 2023 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Court, National


JP gives defendant ‘benefit of the doubt’
Cook Islands High Court. Photo: Sian Solomon/21110511

Okirua Manuela has been given the benefit of the doubt by Justice of the Peace Tangi Taoro as he was sentenced to appear in court in six months if called upon, a week ago.

Convicting him for the charge of unlawfully found, JP Taoro said the court trusted him not to return and that he would continue with his good behaviour.

JP Taoro said Manuela last appeared in court in 2021 for a traffic offence and between 2015 to 2019 he appeared for a string of offences.

She said it was good to see that Manuela was improving as he had been receiving support from his family, had been sober and recovered from substance abuse.

Manuela was charged with unlawfully found in April this year, two months after his arrest for entering a property in Avatiu without the owner’s approval.

JP Taoro said the victim was terrified of the manner Manuela had been asking her questions and followed her around.

However, JP Taoro said she would support the Probation Services recommendation.

Defence lawyer Mark Short said he had represented Manuela in several matters over the past 12 years.

Supporting the recommendations made by Probation Services, Short explained that this was done because his client “used” to go to court regularly but he improved in the last few years and got along with his parents.

“When a defendant is showing improvement that is a sign he is trying to do well.”

JP Taoro said Manuela had stated that his parents support helped him change his behaviour to become a better person.

He acknowledged that alcohol was a contributing factor, adding he was now sober.

JP Taoro said Manuela had improved and the court was going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

However he was reminded that it is against the law to enter anyone’s premises without the approval of the property owner.