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7 go free

Timoci Vula
Thursday, January 24, 2013

SEVEN police officers who each faced a charge of theft for goods they possessed at the height of the floods in the west in April last year have been acquitted.

Resident Magistrate in Ba Mosese Naivalu yesterday ruled there was no case to answer and subsequently acquitted Saula Valu, Joeli Luveitasau, Alivio Batiratu, Manoa Kasatoka, Etonia Moceituba, Marika Yacarua and Yashwant Singh.

The seven were alleged to have stolen assorted groceries valued at $476.98 on April 1, 2012 at Varoka in Ba last year.

In his ruling, Mr Naivalu said he had carefully considered the written submissions of defence counsel Iqbal Khan and the counter-arguments by the State.

He said it was clear that Mr Khan presented three scenarios as the crux of his arguments on no case to answer.

He said in the prosecution's entire case, only three items were exhibited, and that a State witness did not see any of the accused persons take any of the exhibited items — one silver aluminium pot with lid (duck brand), one plastic food container with pink lid and three plastic store bins consisting of two light blue lids and one with pink lid.

He said the same State witness did not lodge a formal complaint regarding those three items.

"The State, on the other hand, submits that they rely on the oral evidence of PW1 (Prosecution Witness 1) and PW2 together with the statements of PW3 and PW4 that were tendered in by consent. More so, that the State relies on the caution interview of all the accused persons together with search warrants and search lists that were also tendered in by consent. Overall, that there is sufficient relevant and admissible evidence for the accused to be put to their defence," Mr Naivalu said.

"At the outset, both PW1 and PW2 apart from the statements of PW3 and PW4 do not assist the State at all given their admissions in cross-examination, which appear fatal to the State's case," he said.

"I am minded to add that the standard of investigation conducted in this case is seriously flawed in that the identification of the properties together with its accurate description was seriously lacking, especially the chain of causation of the recovered items from the individual searches."

He said he found there was no prima facie case and "further, that if the evidence is of such a tenuous character that a jury properly directed could not convict on it, the judge should stop the case and this I do".





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