This was after Principal Magistrate Fatima Taeburi refused to exercise her discretion under section 35 of the Penal Code and section 203 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
“Both section 35 of the Penal Code and section 203 of the CPC gives the court the discretion to refuse to enter a conviction and to order for a dismissal either absolutely or conditionally even if the Court is satisfied that the charge is proved,” Taeburi said.
Wilson Rano of Rano & Company who represents Djokovic had asked Taeburi to exercise her discretion under section 35 of the Penal Code or under section 203 of the CPC.
Taeburi added that section 35 of the Penal Code is very clear that several factors must be present in a case to invoke the court’s discretion.
“The factors include firstly, the character, antecedent, health and medical condition of the accused; secondly the trivial nature of the offence; and thirdly, the extenuating circumstances in which the offence was committed.
“In apply section 35 of the Penal Code to the current case; it is my view that there is nothing special about the personal circumstances of the accused.
She also said that she cannot describe the offence of careless driving as trivial, rather it is a serious offence in her opinion and the circumstances of the accident, in this case, are also quite serious.
Taeburi therefore refused to exercise her discretion under section 35 of the Penal Code and section 203 of the CPC and entered conviction against Mr Djokovic.
Djokovic had entered a guilty plea to the careless driving charge on his previous court appearance.
The maximum penalty for this offence is a fine of $5,000 or imprisonment for six months for first-time offenders.
Ms Taeburi, however, said the maximum penalty is reserved for the worst case of careless driving.
Before determining the appropriate sentence, Taeburi had considered the fact that Djokovic was driving at a very high speed along the main road and fell asleep.
She said the damages to the wall of IBS and to the vehicle as depicted in photographs tendered to the court are quite substantial in her view.
“He must have been driving at a very high speed to have caused damages to that extent.
“He had put the lives of other road users at risk.
“It is very fortunate that he did not hit another vehicle or a pedestrian.”
Taeburi said if he had, lives would have been lost.
She also said that although she accepted that at 6 am that road is not as busy as it usually does, the fact remains that it is a public main road which other road users also have the right to use.
Rano in mitigation had argued that his client fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion and that he is the Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office of Solomon Islands.
He argued that because of the office that he holds, Djokovic was overloaded with work and pressure.
Rano also submitted that his client was only able to get a few hours of sleep several nights before the accident which caused him to fall asleep whilst driving during the morning of the accident.
Ms Taeburi said she does not accept this line of argument saying if she does accept it, it would mean that the Courts condone accidents caused by drivers who experience work-related pressures and stresses.
“The responsibility is on each individual driver in whatever circumstance to take steps and measures to ensure that he or she is fit to drive.
“Every driver in this country regardless of whatever condition, situation or circumstances, have a legal duty to exercise caution and care on the road so that lives of other road users are not at risk.”
Before handing the sentence Taeburi also took into account the office that Djokovic holds and the vehicle was given to him under the privilege of his office, which means the people of Solomon Islands have put their trust and confidence in him.
She said this also means that the defendant like other government officials that hold high positions and who are entrusted with government properties have a higher duty of care.
The court had heard that Djokovic repaired the damages caused to the wall of IBS and to the G – Vehicle.
Public Prosecutor John Wesley Zoze appeared for the Crown.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN