Mass release of suspects due to lack of charges
BY ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN
Fifty-eight (58) people arrested and charged for allegedly breaching the curfew on Friday and Saturday have been released yesterday.
Chief Magistrate Emma Garo made the public announcement in the court premise after no charges were filed by the police or prosecution by 2pm, Tuesday.
“No charges have been filed with the registry or presented at the magistrate as is required by section 76 (1) of the CPC,” Ms Garo said.
Garo said those suspects have been waiting around the court premise from 9am.
She said by 2pm, no charges were filed by prosecution or police and the court has no jurisdiction to make orders or have their bails extended and therefore had them released.
“The Court will deal with their case as and when the police filed the charges,” she said.
The chief magistrate added that because of the failure by the prosecution and the police to have the charges filed, they advised them to go home.
She said if police file the charges then those people can be summoned to attend court.
Meanwhile, the cases of the five other individuals who allegedly breached the curfew on Friday night will return to court today.
This is for the court to hear submissions on a legal issue raised by the defence counsel regarding the curfew regulations issued by the Prime Minister.
This is in relation to the case of three of the five individuals who pleaded not guilty to the offence.
They are facing the charge of restriction of movement contrary to section 4 (1) (3) as read with section 12 of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) Regulations 2020.
Two of them, a male and a female pleaded guilty to the offence and their matter was supposed for sentence yesterday.
Ms Garo, however, stayed their sentence pending the ruling made on the legal issues regarding the regulations issued by the Prime Minister under the state of emergency.
These five accused were remanded in custody on Saturday and their matter adjourned to yesterday.
It was only yesterday that the court was informed that the five individuals were kept at a cell at the Central Police Station and not at the Rove Correctional Centre.
The court was told the five accused were kept in the cells at the Central Police Station since their arrest on Friday night up until yesterday.
It was also heard they were not provided beddings but slept on the floor and each was given one biscuit in the mornings and two biscuits in the evenings for each of the days.
Having heard this in court, Ms Garo summoned the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Solomon Islands (CSSI), Gabriel Manelusi to court yesterday afternoon.
This was for Manelusi to explain to the court as to why the CSSI failed to comply with the orders of the court issued on Saturday.
Manelusi in response said the matter concerning the five accused was not brought to his attention.
He said this issue was only brought to his attention when he was summoned by the court yesterday afternoon.
He said had the matter came to his attention he would have sent the five accused to Rove Correctional Centre.
“For Rove itself, we have it under maintenance at this time too and it is also overcrowded as well,” Manelusi said.
He added that he will have an internal investigation into this matter.
“I have already instructed them to give me a detailed report probably tomorrow (today),” he said when asked as to when he can file a report since he said the matter was not brought to his notice.
Ms Garo also invited submissions on this matter and draw Manelusi’s attention to section 6 of the Magistrates Court Act (cap 20) as read with rule 23.5 of the Civil Procedure Rules.
She explained that this section deals with the powers of the high court to deal with any complaint on authority that extends to upholding the powers of the magistrates’ court.
She said on the face of this section, it seems the CSSI had appeared to have disregarded the orders of the court to remand the five accused at CSSI.
Ms Garo further added that the court will require a report as to why it should not refer those officers responsible to show cause as to why they should not face contempt of court.
She adjourned the matter to today as well for the report to be provided to the court.
All accused were accused of breaching the two nights of curfew on April 10 and 11.
The first curfew was between 8pm on April 10 and 5am on April 11 and the second one between 8pm on April 11 and 5am on April 12.
Six vehicles were also detained and awaiting the court’s decision.
The emergency zone is between Poha, West of Honiara and Alligator Creek in East of Honiara.
It includes the outskirts of Honiara.
The maximum penalty of breaching the curfew is a fine of $10,000 or five years imprisonment or both.