THE man who drove a Backhoe Excavator into the Coral Sea Resort’s lobby causing damages and fear to the hotel’s guests and employees last year has been sentenced to a total of two years imprisonment.
Dickson Irofinao was sentenced following his guilty pleas to the charges of intimidation and wilful and unlawful damage.
Principal Magistrate Felix Hollison in his sentencing remarks said an excavator machine was used to destroy the properties of Coral Sea Resort and also to intimidate workers and other people present at the Resort.
“The right to protection is a constitutional right entrenched in the Constitution,” Mr Hollison said.
He added that this means that apart from any lawful process permitted by the Constitution, any pieces of legislation, law or courts, there is no justification for a person to destroy another person’s property.
“Property rights are fundamental rights, however it appears that a good number of people in this country no longer respect or are simply ignorant of such rights, and a classic example is this present case.”
Mr Hollison said the action of the accused brought disrepute to the country’s struggling tourism industry as this case also attracts media attention.
“The investors who owned the Coral Sea Resort had to dig deep into their coffers for the repair of their damaged properties,” Mr Hollison said.
He also added that this shows to some extent that the economic climate here is not attractive and conducive for investors.
“That is to say that such absurd actions have adverse repercussions as to our country’s reputation in the international stage for the purposes of investment.
In this case, Irofinao had options to deal with or contain the alleged situation that he went through but certainly not in the manner that he reacted.
“People must always try to solve their problems amicably and peacefully rather than resorting to violence or taking the law into their own hands,” Mr Hollison further added.
“It must be noted that the trend with respect to the offence of wilful and malicious damage, committed against other people’s properties is sadly increasing throughout many parts of the country,” he said.
Mr Hollison stressed that such unlawful actions must be condemned by the court and the court through its sentences must warn members of the public of the consequences of breaking the law with a strong deterrence.
On the afternoon of 11 October 2018, the accused drove a backhoe excavator and deliberately and recklessly sped into the Coral Sea Resort lobby and scared off guests and works.
The court heard Irofinao also threw a bucket filled with petrol in the reception area.
He also causes damages to the properties with the Backhoe Excavator’s blade.
The total cost of the repair to the damaged properties costs $277,138.00
Earlier that day, Irofinao called the hotel’s reception desk three times and swore at the hotel’s employees and their bosses.
In mitigation, Irofinao’s lawyer submitted that the reason Irofinao committed the offences was out of anger stemmed from an alleged affair that his de-factor partner had with another man.
The lawyer submitted that the man also works at the Resort.
Irofinao’s de-factor partner was working at the Coral Sea Resort at the time of the offence.
Mr Hollison said in any event, relationship and matrimonial issues are not legitimate justifications or does not confer the right to a person to destroy another person’s property.
He said the Resort is an innocent entity and has nothing to do with that purported adulterous marriage.
“It is blatantly stupid for a person to vent his anger by damaging other innocent people’s property.
“Such people must be punished for their reckless and careless attitude,” he said.
Mr Hollison said in this case the excavator was used as a weapon where Irofinao recklessly drove into the lobby at a high speed showing how arrogant and irresponsible he was.
“The Coral Sea Resort is a tourism service provider and normally hosts both local and international guests.
“Such actions actually painted a bad picture with respect to our tourism industry.
“The guests were very much disturbed by this incident,” Mr Hollison said.
He said Irofinao’s attitude of damaging the tables, plates and throwing off the table using the Backhoe Excavator in the presence of both customers, guests and employees speak volumes of his stupidity, wild and careless attitude in its worst form.
He also said the throwing of the bucket filled with petrol in the reception area suggested that the attack was premeditated.
The defence has asked for a suspended sentence but Mr Hollison said the use of the weapon is aggravating and warrants a custodial sentence.
Having considered the aggravating and mitigating factors, counsel’s submissions and his computations Mr Hollison imposed a final total sentence of two years imprisonment.
Eighteen months was imposed for the willful and unlawful damage and 24 months was imposed for the intimidation charge.
Both sentences were ordered to run concurrently which resulted in the 24 months imprisonment or two years imprisonment.
The time he spent in custody was taken into account.
Public Solicitor’s lawyer Ron Dickey Pulekera represented Irofinao while Public Prosecutor Stewart Tonowane appeared for the Crown.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN