Temo: Potential claim against State

Marcellin Lalabalavu (left) and Jona Rokosuka exit the High Court in Suva yesterday. Picture: IAN CHUTE

A woman who was mugged outside a shop in Nadera in September last year may have a civil claim against the State if one of her muggers is found guilty of a similar, earlier offence.

The basis of the woman’s claim would be that one of the muggers, Jona Rokosuka, was mistakenly released by the Fiji Corrections Service and committed the offence after he was set free.

Mr Rokosuka and Marcellin Lalabalavu were produced before Justice Salesi Temo in the High Court in Suva yesterday, each charged with one count of aggravated robbery and resisting arrest.

The duo were alleged to have mugged a woman outside a supermarket in Nadera by grabbing her bag and trying to run off. She held onto the bag and was struck on the back during the alleged mugging.

The prosecutor in the matter said witnesses positively identified and recognised Mr Rokosuka in the act and said he allegedly made admissions to both counts in his cautionary interview and in alleged verbal confessions to the arresting officers.

Mr Rokosuka’s Legal Aid lawyer said he would challenge the alleged confession in voir dire, saying his client was threatened to confess and that the eye witnesses’ evidence would be challenged as it happened at night and the evidence contradicted each other.

When bail was discussed, the prosecutor said that Mr Rokosuka had a similar matter pending before Justice Temo and that he was mistakenly released by the Fiji Corrections Service (FCS) before committing the offence he was presently in court for.

Justice Temo said that if found guilty for the earlier matter, the woman that Mr Rokosuka and Mr Lalabalavu allegedly mugged in Nadera might have a civil claim against the State and the FCS.

“We can’t have people, who have been remanded, mistakenly released and becoming a danger to society,” Justice Temo said.

Both the accused were remanded, with Mr Rokosuka remanded until the date of the trial, which was yet to be determined.

Justice Temo gave until February 18 for Mr Lalabalavu to seek Legal Aid assistance.

The matter was adjourned and will be called again on Friday, February 18.

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