Wednesday 29 March 2023 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Court, National
Iorama Ngataua, who appeared before Justice Christopher Toogood in the High Court in Avarua last week, faced two charges of wilful damage, one charge of committing a threatening act, one charge of assault on a female and two charges of contempt of court.
Ngataua represented himself in Court. He was found guilty on all charges.
The charges relate to events on September 14, 2020, September 26, 2021, September 5, 2022 and December 17, 2022.
All of the victims have name suppression. Justice Toogood’s verdict has been released to Cook Islands News.
“Although six charges have been heard together, it was necessary for me to consider and decide each charge separately,” Justice Toogood said.
“There was no challenge to the credibility or reliability of any of the eyewitnesses. Despite the background to this case of domestic disharmony, none of the witnesses demonstrated any animosity towards Ngataua. They gave their evidence in a calm and dispassionate manner despite obviously being upset by the events they were required to relive.”
In the first incident, Ngataua became angry with the complainant after observing a wet patch on the back of her shorts. She explained to him that the wet patch was the result of the work she did; Ngataua was not placated. He became irrational and began yelling loudly.
Ngataua smashed the right rear window of the complainant’s vehicle. Seizing a nearby petrol canister, he began pouring petrol through the open driver’s window of the car and then turned his attention to another van which, by this time, had returned and was parked nearby. He poured petrol through the van and then moved over to the house.
Ngataua threw the petrol canister into the living area, where it struck a wall. More petrol spilled inside the house. Ngataua then began looking in the vehicle for a lighter or matches, saying he was going to burn the house down.
“It is clear to me that the complainant’s father was particularly upset by these events and that he genuinely feared serious damage to his house and a risk of harm to the family members, if Ngataua found some means of ignition,” Justice Toogood said.
On the charge of assaulting a female, where Ngataua hit a girl, Justice Toogood was “satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Ngataua assaulted her by hitting her across the face”.
“It does not matter for present purposes whether that was with his open hand or a punch, but for sentencing purposes I would assume that he used his open hand,” Justice Toogood said.
On the second wilful damage of a vehicle charge, on September 5, 2022, Ngataua damaged the vehicle by breaking the window and that the value of the damage exceeded $50.
On the first charge of contempt of court, Ngataua was ordered by the High Court not to contact or interfere with witnesses or complainants relating to the matters before the Court. Ngataua disobeyed the order knowingly in that he contacted or interfered with the complainant by verbally abusing her.
The second charge of contempt of court occurred on December 17, 2022, when a constable arrested Ngataua on another matter. He said he smelled the strong odour of alcohol on Ngataua’s breath at the time of the arrest. The constable was not challenged on that evidence.
Ngataua was remanded in custody, and will appear in Court for sentencing on April 12.
Justice Toogood has called for a probation report and for victim impact statements.