PROMINENT businesswoman Mary Chow has won her case in the Honiara Magistrates’ Court after two trials.
Chief Magistrate Emmanuel Kouhota had her acquitted of all the four counts of perjury, yesterday.
He considered all evidence including the tendered documents and statements which form part of the evidence before the court and was not satisfied that prosecution has proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused when sworn as a witness wilfully makes a statement she knows to be false or that she wilfully made three sworn statements she knew to be false in Civil No.125 of 2010.
He said in relation to that, neither did the prosecution as a matter of law negative the existence of an honest and reasonable belief raised by the defence.
“I accordingly find the accused not guilty of all four charges against her and must acquit her of all the four charges.”
Chow stood trial for the second time after she won her appeal case in the High Court.
She had successfully appealed against her conviction and sentence after the first trial for the four counts of perjury.
After her first trial in the Honiara Magistrates’ Court she was convicted of three perjury charges and was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.
Her sentence was however fully suspended, but she appealed to the High Court in which Justice Francis Mwanesalua quashed her convictions and her suspended sentence.
A fresh trial was then heard before the Chief Magistrate in February this year.
The perjury charges were in relation to three statements Chow made during a high court civil case between herself and the Complainant Aggie Podarua in this case.
It was said she lied in court during the civil proceedings that she and Ms Podarua never entered into a written tenancy agreement.
She said they have only entered into an oral agreement.
During the civil hearing no evidence of the signed written tenancy agreement was produced because both parties could not locate their copies.
She and the complainant, Aggie Podarua in 2007 entered into a tenancy agreement over a property owned by Chow.
The agreement involved the complainant to operate a fast food on the property owned by Chow known as the Amy’s Fast food bar located at Point Cruz, Honiara.
There was a written tenancy agreement signed by both Chow and Mrs Podarua.
After some disputes between the two parties over the payments of the rental, Chow filed a civil suit against Mrs Podarua.
It was during the High Court civil hearing that she made three statements under oath that she and the complainant did not enter into a written agreement.
She claimed there was only an oral tenancy agreement.
Mrs Podarua later located the copy of the written and signed agreement in 2011 and lodged a complaint against Chow.
Chow during the criminal proceedings against her in the Honiara Magistrates’ Court conceded there was a written agreement signed between Mrs Podarua and herself.
She however, made a defence of honest mistake.
Chow said she honestly believe there was no sign written tenancy agreement between her and the Complainant Mrs Agnes Podarua because the copy she have was an unsigned draft of the written agreement.
She stated in her evidence during the civil case in the High Court she instructed her lawyer to request Mrs Podarua to provide her a copy of the written signed tenancy agreement but Mrs Podarua was unable to do so.
Mr Kouhota in his judgment said the evidence of Mrs Podarua in Civil Case No. 125 of 2010 and also at this trial states that it was her husband Freeman Podarua who witnessed the written signed tenancy agreement, her belief proved otherwise when she discovered her copy of
the written signed tenancy agreement.
He said the evidence also shows that even one of the attesting witnesses Ruth Alepio when contacted by Mr Podarua was not sure if she signed as attesting witness not until she was shown a copy of the written signed tenancy agreement.
“No one can blame them for being unsure and having mistaken beliefs, the period between the signing of the tenancy agreement and the hearing of Civil Case No. 125 of 2010 in the High Court was about three years and being humans with all the human frailties, laps of time would generally have an effect on their memory and recollection of events.
“If the witnesses believe they sign or did not sign or are unsure whether they signed as witnesses on the written tenancy agreement, there is no reason why the same thing would not happen to the accused and cause her to reasonable and honestly believe she did not sign any written agreement.
“She is just as human as prosecution witnesses who are also unsure about the events.
“Having observed her demeanour in the witness box I believe she is honest in what she told court.”
Maelyn Bird of Emerald Lawyers represented Chow while State Prosecutor Margaret Suifa’asia appeared for the Crown.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN