Bail application declined for former Vanuatu MPs

PORT VILA, 19 JUNE 2018 (VANUATU DAILY POST) — The Vanuatu Supreme Court has declined an application for bail pending appeal by Marcellino Pipite, Silas Yatan, John Amos, Thomas Laken and Jonas James.

The application for bail pending appeal by the former members of parliament was filed on the same date of their sentencing of 3 years and 10 months imprisonment for the offence of conspiring to pervert the course of justice.

When handing down the judgment for bail application,  Justice Gustaaf Andre Wiltens said all defendants simultaneously applied for bail pending appeal with identical sworn statements filed in support.

The lawyer representing Pipite, Christina Thyna, told the Court that there are two grounds of appeal.

First ground is for the full one-third discount for early guilty pleas be allowed  as per PP v Andy [2011] VUCA 14 on the basis that the re-trial was a new proceeding and the calculation of time should have been recommenced.

Second is other personal factors advanced as mitigation which should have been taken into account.

Justice Wiltens stated: “When i challenged Thyna about the reason why discounts for early pleas are entertained, she was at a loss to respond.

“In my view, the reasons are that an early guilty plea saves time, effort and costs; it spares complainants the stress of having to re-live ordeals and the prospect of being cross-examined in Court with unlimited spectators watching on; and, significantly, it demonstrates an acceptance of the criminal conduct alleged and can be an indicator of contrition or remorse on the part of the perpetrator.

“The sooner the plea is entered, the greater the mitigation available.

“In this case, there has been a 2.5 year time lag between the offending and the pleas – in which time these defendants denied any wrong-doing leading up to and during the Appeal process.

“All that time, there was no remorse shown, and no acceptance of wrong-doing.

“And the resultant costs accrued over time, and further effort was involved in trial preparation, in the actual trial, in the sentencing process and finally during the entire appeal process.

“The witnesses were not doubt on tenterhooks throughout that process, wondering if they would have to give evidence.

“In my view, there is not way that the pleas here can be described as early.

“In the end i allowed 15 per cent discount for the pleas entered.

“Even if this point gains any traction in Court of Appeal, which i seriously doubt, it can only reduce the end sentence by a relatively short term of imprisonment,” Justice Wiltens said.

The Court was told that the sworn statements of all six defendants were identical due to a shortage of time.

In the Judge’s view, this means that there were no special considerations required to be taken into account for any of the applicants.

“The defendants will have served approximately one month of their sentence before the Court of Appeal considers the matter.

“Out of the sentencing of 3 years 10 months, that is not a factor that lends weight to the argument for bail pending appeal.

“The applicants for bail pending appeal are all declined.

“The defendants are to start serving their sentences.

“If their medical issues grow worse, they should alert the Correctional Facility staff – i have no doubts they can and will be properly cared for.

“Section 70 of the Criminal Procedure Code precludes an appeal from this decision,” Judge Wiltens ruled.

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