Wednesday 20 September 2023 | Written by webmaster | Published in
It is puzzling to witness cases where some individuals seem to slip through the cracks of the justice system.
One such case is that of Joshua Utanga, who has managed to enjoy international travel despite two convictions for assault on a female.
This raises important questions about the fairness and
effectiveness of the legal system in dealing with convicted criminals. There
have been instances where people have had their passports confiscated for
seemingly minor offences, such as selling a bag of lemons.
Another recent case saw a defendant having his passport
surrendered to the court after an assault on a female.
These examples beg the question: Why has Joshua Utanga been
allowed to retain his passport despite his convictions? The fact that Joshua is
able to take vacations in Australia adds fuel to this debate. With two assault
convictions, it would be reasonable for him to face similar consequences as
others in similar situations. It is crucial for the justice system to ensure
equitable treatment for all individuals. Perhaps there may be undisclosed
factors at play or reasons behind Joshua's continued ability to travel abroad.
However, transparency is essential in cases involving public
interest, and if no adequate explanation is provided, it can erode trust in the
system. It is vital that leniency should not be extended toward individuals
like Joshua Utanga without a just cause. If passports are confiscated from
offenders with similar or lower ranking convictions, then justice should be
Society must demand consistency and fairness in how those who are convicted are dealt with, regardless of their personal circumstances or connections. Sammy Mataroa
Ministry of Justice Secretary Tamatoa Jonassen responds
Although everyone is
entitled to equal protection of the law, not everyone who comes through the
court system has the same situation; for example, there may be different facts
in each case, each defendant may have different histories of prior offending,
or the crime(s) being alleged may be different in severity.
Accordingly, it should not be surprising that there are
different results for different people that go through the courts. It is up to
the Judge or Justice of the Peace presiding over the case to determine whether
a defendant's passport should be confiscated or not, and this determination is
sometimes the subject of legal arguments submitted by the lawyers acting on
each side of the case, and sometimes influenced by probationary or mental
health assessment reports where relevant.
It is the job of Crown prosecutors/Police to prosecute
alleged criminal activity in the public interest, and if there is inequitable
application of the law, then the parties can seek to appeal the decision made
by the Justice of the Peace or Judge, to a High Court Judge or Court of Appeal,
as the situation requires and depending on the nature of the alleged offence.
The Cook Islands is
very lucky to have highly qualified Judges, many of which are retired New
Zealand Court Judges, or are still actively serving on the New Zealand Court