TONGAN OFFICER GUILTY OF MANSLAUGHTER

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NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, June 14) - Lance Corporal Tevita Vi of the Ha'apai police force was found guilty of manslaughter by Chief Justice Robin Webster at the Nuku'alofa Supreme Court on June 10.

Vi, 37, was charged with two counts of manslaughter and causing bodily harm.

The court was told that on July 3, 2004, at Pangai, Vi caused the death of 73-year-old Sime Soakai when he slapped him on the right side of his face while Soakai was drunk, causing him to fall and hit his head on the road receiving a severe head injury.

Soakai had been shouting loudly as he was walking along the main road at Pangai in the early afternoon with members of a drinking party.

The accused, Vi, who was working at home, went out to the road to stop Soakai shouting, where a witness saw him slap Soakai, who fell to the ground. After the slap, Soakai bled from his ear and mouth and was rushed to the hospital where he was found to have suffered severe head injuries and a left side fracture to his head.

He died on October 18, from complications of the injury after over three months of hospitalization at Niu'ui Hospital.

Chief Justice Webster said in passing his judgment that he was satisfied that the fall caused by the accused's slap caused the deceased’s death. Therefore he found beyond reasonable doubt that the slap used was an unlawful act and not one to be carried out by a police officer.

He reserved the sentencing to be passed on June 17.

The legal counsel for the Crown was Sione Sisifa and representing the accused was Siosifa Tu'utafaiva.

June 15, 2005

Matangi Tonga: www.matangitonga.to/nav.html

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