Order lifted: Meli Bainimarama faces 17 charges in Australia
17 September, 2022, 12:22 pm
The son of Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is facing multiple charges of assault and domestic violence offences in Australia.
Ratu Meli Bainimarama, 36, faces 17 charges including common assault, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, stalking and intentionally choking a person without consent.
Mr Bainimarama, the PM’s only son, is also accused of destroying or damaging property and intentionally distributing an intimate image without consent.
Mr Bainimarama’s lawyer successfully applied for a nationwide suppression order on proceedings over the weekend but this order was lifted by magistrate Leanne Robinson in Sydney’s Windsor courthouse yesterday morning.
Arguing for the non-publication order to be continued, Mr Bainimarama’s lawyer said news coverage could see information published that would not be available to jurors, in the event of a future trial.
“There is information in the antecedents of the fact sheet that relates to the accused’s personal relationships that would certainly not form part of any information that would be before a jury in a trial, that is likely to be of significant interest to news media organisations,” lawyer Tony Edwards argued.
He also cited publications which had already occurred, arguing defamatory allegations had already been published.
“Mr Bainimarama will rely on his good character in his defence,” he told the court.
“The publication of this material has happened with these orders in existence.”
The lawyer representing the ABC, Corey Jankie, said that Mr Edwards’s argument was based on “a series of hypotheticals”.
“To suggest somehow the reporting of materials now will somehow influence jurors 12 months down the track is fanciful,” he told the court.
In handing down her judgement, Magistrate Robinson said there was nothing particularly unusual about the case to justify a non-publication order.
“There is nothing particular about the nature of the allegations themselves that raises any extraordinariness,” the magistrate said.
“Unfortunately, they are the kind of charges that come before the local court [often].
“What makes it newsworthy … is his identity, that he is the son of the serving prime minister of Fiji. That has apparently created some news interest.”
Magistrate Robinson went on to say she was not satisfied there would be such news interest that it would be necessary to have a non-publication order to prevent prejudice to the admission of justice, noting that matters featuring prominent people such as National Rugby League players were reported on regularly.
Several Fijian men attended Windsor court on Thursday when the matter was mentioned.
They said they were interested to hear the proceedings as it was a matter of great interest for the local Fijian community.
The arrest comes at an awkward time for Frank Bainimarama who is facing a tough challenge from former Fijian PM Sitiveni Rabuka in an election expected later this year.
Ratu Meli Bainimarama is currently on bail and his matter is due back in court on October 13.
Mr Bainimarama has not entered a plea.