By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN
CHIEF Magistrate Emma Garo has acquitted three young men accused of breaching the April 10 curfew in Honiara.
Kevin Tarifu, Junior Lesley Tata and Hilton Jeffery Maetarau had stood trial for the charge of restriction of movement contrary to regulation 12 (1) of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) 2020 and Order 4 (1) (a) (i) and (b) of the Emergency Powers (COVID – 19) Restriction of movement in Honiara order 2020 as ready with section 21 (a) of the Penal Code Cap 26.
This was in relation to the allegation that they were seen at the public road at Forest Valley, White River area, drunk, noisy and disorderly at 11pm on April 10.
The issues that went to trial for the determination of the court are whether the place of residence of the defendants, that is Forest Valley, is within the emergency zone and whether each of the defendants was in a public place within the Honiara Emergency Zone on April 10 at 11 pm.
The prosecution called four witnesses while the defence did not give evidence at the trial.
At the end of the trial, Garo said she cannot rely on the evidence of the any of the prosecution witnesses called to make a finding of fact on the issue of whether or not Forest Valley is located within Honiara City as defined by section 2 of the Town and Country Planning Act Cap 154 as amended or the Emergency Zone as declared by the Prime Minister.
“The Surveyor General has not been called to provide the Court with a copy of the map referred to in section 2 of the Town and Country Planning Act Cap 154 as amended and to explain the boundary of Honiara City as defined in section 2 of the said legislation.
“The end result is that there is no evidence before this court to enable it to decide whether or not Forest Valley area is within the Honiara City boundary,”
“The Honiara emergency zone is defined as the area from the central business district to Poha River.”
Garo said on the evidence it is agreed that there is no map or plan on which the emergency zone area is delineated.
“Could this Court infer that the boundary of Honiara City forms part of the Emergency Zone?
“Could this court infer that the boundary of the Western end of the emergency zone ends at the bridge at Poha River?
“Could this court infer that the Eastern end of the emergency zone ends at the bridge at Alligator Creek?
“Could this court infer that the emergency zone runs along the main road from Poha River to Alligator Creek?”
Garo further added that the southern boundary of the Emergency Zone has not been delineated.
She also said the northern Boundary of the Emergency zone has not been delineated.
“The central point, in terms of the coordinates, to clearly delineate, the point at the central business district, which demarcates, the point of origin of the Eastern Boundary, and the point of origin of the Western Boundary, of the Emergency Zone has not been delineated.
“The Prime Minister in my view is the only person who could clarify the boundary of the Emergency Zone.
“The Prime Minister has not been called to give evidence about actual physical boundary on the ground of the Emergency Zone, and to explain the boundaries of the Emergency Zone.”
Garo said all that the court is left with is a vague definition of the Emergency Zone.
She said it is not for the court to go beyond the evidence available, to infer the boundary of the emergency zone.
“The end result is that I find that the prosecution has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the Forest Valley, where the defendants reside is within the Honiara Emergency Zone boundary to which the order applies,” Garo said.
“I also find that the prosecution has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Forest Valley road is a public place within the boundary of Honiara Emergency Zone to which the order applies,” she added.
She further stated that she found that the prosecution has failed to prove the charges against the defendants beyond reasonable doubt and found the three defendants not guilty.
These young men were part of the 63 people arrested on the two nights of curfew – April 10 and April 11.
The government had issued the curfew to test its response capacity and help identify challenges faced during an actual lockdown in terms of COVID-19.
The curfew was enforced within the declared emergency zone from Poha River in the west of Honiara to Alligator Creek in the east of Honiara.
Public Solicitor Howard Lawry represented the trio while Public Prosecutor Dalcy Belapitu appeared for the Crown.