A retrial before a new Magistrate was ordered by the Lautoka High Court on Tuesday in the case involving a former Land Transport Authority (LTA) officer.
The Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption (FICAC) initially filed charges against Mr. Filimoni Bola with one (1) count of "Bribery" under the Prevention of Bribery Act.
It was alleged that he accepted $50.00FJD from an individual for passing a vehicle without carrying out the required inspections.
The former Magistrate Mr. Mosese Naivalu presided over the hearing and at the end of the case, acquitted the accused in October 2017.
Dissatisfied by this, FICAC appealed to the High Court on nine (9) grounds of errors of law committed by the former Magistrate.
In delivering his Judgment, High Court Judge Justice Mr. Aruna Aluthge agreed with FICAC’s submission on eight (8) grounds and allowed the appeal.
The High Court, whilst referring to a legal precedence stated that:
“In a trial, the judge has to conduct as an impartial arbiter. The law requires that a judicial officer must conduct the trial with an open minded, impartially and fairly and such conduct must be manifest to all those who are concerned in the trial and its outcome.
…the circumstances of current case the conduct of the learned Magistrate in criticizing prosecution and investigations of the State clearly imply certain biases by the learned Magistrate…”
In conclusion, the court said that there was a fundamental error in judgment from the very beginning not only with regards to the relevant law and legal principles, but also in assessing the evidence."
The court accordingly ordered a retrial before a new Magistrate.
The matter has been adjourned to 3 December 2018 in the Ba Magistrates Court for Mention.