THE Member of Parliament for Northwest Guadalcanal, Bodo Dettke, is a free man.
The Magistrate’s Court acquitted Mr. Dettke of traffic offences which landed him in court in the first place.
Magistrate Emily Zazariko Vagibule last Tuesday acquitted Hon Dettke of one count of careless and inconsiderate driving after the prosecution applied to have the charge against the MP withdrawn under section 190(2) (b)(i) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) for lack of insufficient evidence.
Vagibule having made the acquittal, however, dismissed grounds submitted by the defence counsel, Gabriel Suri, of abuse of process and claim for compensation and costs.
Mr. Suri of Suri’s Law Practice in response to the application by the Prosecution to withdraw his client’s case had submitted the grounds of abuse of process, compensation and cost.
He also argued as to why the charge was initiated by the police when they were aware that this only points to his client as the victim.
Furthermore, Mr. Suri submitted that despite there not being any shred of evidence to suspect that his client had caused the traffic accident, it is a clear abuse of the criminal process.
It was also submitted that the charge served on his client was signed and issued by a Magistrate without any shred of evidence to suspect that it was his client who caused the traffic accident.
Mr. Suri also questioned whether the magistrate has considered the witness statement before signing the charge.
He argued that if anyone is entitled to the protection of the law, as guaranteed by the Constitution, it would mean that persons who are wrongly charged and wrongly prosecuted must also be entitled to seek redress from the court.
He said the charge against his client in this regard, is frivolous and vexatious, hence he must be paid reasonable compensation, which is to be assessed and costs of the criminal proceeding, pursuant to section 155 of the CPC.
In her ruling, Ms Vagibule said the Magistrate’s Court does not have any evidence presented before it, in relation to Suri’s argument on why police initiated the charge when they knew his client was a victim.
In relation to the argument of the charge being signed by a magistrate, Vagibule said a Magistrate is not obliged to assess the evidence of a particular case before making the decision to sign a formal charge.
“Clearly, the act of assessing evidence by a Magistrate can only be done after the charge is put to the Accused and evidence is led,” Vagibule added.
She further added that to say that a Magistrate must first of all asses the evidence regarding any given charge before signing a charge, would be contrary to section 76 of the CPC, specifically subsections (1), (2), (3) and (4).
Vagibule said the argument is misleading and without basis.
In light of the ground of abuse of power, Vagibule said the Magistrate’s Court does not have the power to stay proceedings based on abuse of process.
“Coming back to the circumstances at hand, it will be right to say that this court does not have the jurisdiction to preside over cases relating to abuse of power.
“The grounds regarding the abuse of process in this regard is best left to be determined by the Director of Public Prosecutions on the basis of malicious prosecution against the officer who laid the charge and the Director of Public Prosecutions, with reference to the case of Wong versus Chin Foot Hap.
“With respect to compensation, this court also does not have the jurisdiction to grant, such an order, unlike the High Court.
“While I accept that orders for cost can be made by this court, I note that the matter had been listed only for a total of four times, excluding today’s date, which is purposely for a ruling that could have already been handed down yesterday (Monday).
“Obviously, I am denied the right of making a proper assessment before reaching an assessment.”
Vagibule said she would appreciate it if submissions are backed with substantial evidence and case authorities in the near future.
She said while she acknowledged the effort put in place by Mr. Suri to raise the very arguments, she is of the view, and with the greatest respect that his arguments had been made out of a vacuum.
Hon Dettke was charged in relation to a traffic incident opposite the Central Honiara Market on 8th August 2020. In earlier proceedings, the court heard Hon Dettke’s vehicle veered off the westbound lane and hit the median strip fence that separating the east-bound and west-bound traffic.
By ASSUMPTA BONGIDANI