TRIAL will start early next month on the case of Dr Regional Aipia who was accused of harvesting and retaining beche-de-mer for export during a ban-period.
The court was informed on Monday that arrangements are underway for witnesses to come over to Honiara from the Lord Howe Islands in the Malaita Outer Island.
Public Prosecutor Ishmael Kekou said witnesses should be arriving next week if transportation to the island is confirmed.
He however said their arrival depends entirely on the ship’s schedule.
The ship was supposed to travel to Lord Howe last week but have changed its schedule for this week.
He asked for an adjournment to Monday next week to confirm with the ship’s schedule first before confirming they are ready for the trial.
The court was also informed that the matter is now transferred to an Advisor in their office who will now take carriage of the matter for trial.
Chief Magistrate Emmanuel Kouhota therefore had to adjourn the matter to Monday next week for prosecution to confirm the ship’s schedule and whether the witnesses will be arriving in time for the trial that will begin on November 2.
Aipia was charged with one count of possession of beche-de-mer for export contrary to section (c/s) 13A of Fisheries Act.
The charge was in relation to an allegation in 2013 at Lord Howe Islands, where he allegedly tried to export bags of mixed species of beche-de-mer weighing around 1,526.28 kilograms during the ban-period.
Aipia’s case was remitted back to the Honiara Magistrates’ Court for re-trial after the High Court stayed the orders of the magistrate who dismissed the charge against him.
Principal Magistrate Jim Seuika earlier last year dismissed the charge against Aipia for having being instituted beyond six months after the alleged commissioning of the crime contrary to section 206 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).
Magistrate Seuika made orders that Aipia’s case be discharged under section 190 (2) (b) (i) of the CPC and that the confiscated beche-de-mers be returned to him.
Wilson Rano of Rano & Company, who represented Aipia, had made the application to discharge his client on 31 October last year on grounds that the charge was filed beyond six months’ time limit.
Prosecution however filed an application to stay and review the orders of the Magistrates’ Court.
Former judge, Justice Stephen Pallaras who heard the matter granted prosecution’s application and ordered that the magistrate’s orders be stayed until the review is heard.
He also stayed the orders of the magistrate’s ruling for the return of the products subjected to the charge seized by the officers of the Fisheries Department in condition with the police.
After reviewing the matter, Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer remitted the case back to the Magistrates’ Court for hearing by another magistrate.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN