Precedent Setting Ruling Delivered in High Court

Media Team   |   28 Jun 2018

The Suva High Court today ruled in favour of the appeal filed by the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) in the case involving the former Acting Deputy Official Receiver of the Judicial Department of Fiji.

In a precedent setting ruling, Justice Mr. Salesi Temo ordered that the case be transferred back to the Magistrate who had sentenced Mr. Viliame Katia last June to read the High Court Judgement and correct himself accordingly by transferring this case to the High Court for Sentencing.

Furthermore, Justice Temo declared that these matters be treated with urgency by the Magistrates Court.

Mr. Katia was charged by FICAC in 2016 with eleven (11) counts of corruption related offences, namely, four (4) counts of "Forgery", three (3) counts of "Abuse of Office", and one (1) count each of "Embezzlement by Servant", "Unauthorized Modification of Data" and "Obtaining a Financial Advantage".

He was sentenced to fourteen (14) years imprisonment with a non-parole period of twelve (12) years.

FICAC, in their appeal provided three (3) grounds: the failure of the Magistrate to transfer the case to the High Court, that the Magistrate exceeded his jurisdiction and that the sentence given was lenient.

In delivering his ruling, Justice Temo found it unnecessary to consider the last two (2) grounds of FICAC’s appeal as ground one (1) alone sufficed as the Magistrate misread and misapplied Section 190 of the Criminal Procedures Act of 2009.

He emphasized that the Magistrates Court is for summary offences and is limited to a ten (10) year sentencing and that the maximum sentencing for some of Mr. Katia’s charges were above that of the jurisdiction of a Magistrates Court.

Moreover, he added that the Magistrate allowed irrelevant matters to guide him and had pre-judged the case before the aggravating and mitigating factors were formally filed by the Prosecution and Defence.

The matter has been adjourned to 20 July 2018 to ensure that the orders have been complied with and the Accused will be remanded in custody.