NUKUALOFA ‘MADAM’ GIVEN REDUCED SENTENCE

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NUKUALOFA ‘MADAM’ GIVEN REDUCED SENTENCE Appeal Court cuts 10-year prison sentence to 7

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Sept. 30, 2011) – The Tonga Court of Appeal dismissed both appeals made by Liu Lirong against her conviction and sentence of 10 years imprisonment, for people trafficking, trading in prostitution and keeping a brothel in Tongatapu.

However, the Court of Appeal considered that the judge should in this case have suspended a portion of the sentence because Lirong was a first time offender, at the age of 42.

The Court of Appeal ordered that the final three years of the 10 years sentence be suspended for three years. This meant that Liu would be serving only seven years imprisonment of her 10 years sentence.

Justice James Burchett, Justice Peter Salmon and Justice Michael Moore in their judgment said that the appeal against her conviction by Justice Robert Shuster on all charges be dismissed.

One of their reasons was that they did not consider that the verdicts of guilty were against the weight of the evidence and despite their concern with some of the content of the judgment and the judge's approach, they were not drawn to the conclusion that the evidence was unsatisfactory and that there had been a miscarriage of justice.

In regards to the appeal against her 10 years imprisonment, the judges were also not satisfied that the 10 years sentence imposed was manifestly excessive, as the maximum sentence under the Transnational Crimes Act is 25 years imprisonment, the Court of Appeal ruled.

"We consider however that the judge should in this case have suspended a portion of the sentence. The fact that she is a first time offender at the age of 42 justifies such step."

The Court of Appeal ordered that the final three years of the 10 years sentence be suspended for three years.

On May 30 this year, Justice Robert Shuster sentenced Liu to 10 years sentence without suspension after finding her guilty on seven counts of people trafficking, trading in prostitution and keeping a brothel after a trial by judge alone in April.

Lirong who pleaded guilty on all seven counts had maintained her innocence throughout the trial. However, the two victims from China, Chun Juan Du (34) and Hong Yu Yang (29) in their evidence told the court that Lirong had forced them into prostitution in Tongatapu in 2009.

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