THE court has found two juveniles guilty of setting fire to the leaf hut next to the Parliament House during last November’s unrest.
The juveniles who were aged 16 and 17 were found guilty after a trial for the charge of arson.
Chief Magistrate Emma Garo she found that the prosecution has proved the charge against the two defendants beyond reasonable doubt,” Ms Garo said.
“I find the defendants guilty,” she added.
She then convicted the defendants of the charge of the arson.
The crucial crown witness’s evidence was that he saw the two defendants near the leaf hut on 24 November 2021.
He added that he knows the defendants well and is related to them both.
He saw the defendant PM gave the match to defendant CM who climbed up to the middle of the leaf hut.
This witness told the court that after he saw the defendant PM gave the match to defendant CM, he left to go to the office of Speaker of Parliament and later left the Parliament building.
Therefore, he did not see how the fire started but saw smoke coming out from the direction of the leaf hut when he drove towards Vavaya Ridge.
That same evening at the settlement at Lunnga, the two defendants were publicly saying they were the ones who burnt down the leaf hut.
He said the defendants were clearly showing off when they were saying that.
He further said the two defendants consumed alcohol that day.
Other prosecution witnesses also saw two boys set fire to the leaf hut, but they did not know the names of the boys.
The defendants however denied setting fire to the leaf hut.
They did not dispute that the defendant PM told others he and defendant CM set fire to the leaf hut.
However, the defence case is that the defendant PM was drunk at that time and was just joking and making fun about actually setting fire to the leaf hut.
One of the prosecution witnesses stated that the defendant was joking and laughing at that time whereas the prosecution crucial witness stated the defendants were both serious and proud of what they said.
Ms Garo in her judgement said whether or not the defendants were joking or bragging about setting fire to the leaf hut is immaterial, because it does not change the fact that they made admissions against their self-interest.
“At its highest, the evidence of a crucial crown witness links the evidence of those to whom the defendants’ made admissions against self-interest, about setting fire to the leaf hut and the evidence of the three witnesses who watched the events unfold from the kitchen inside the Parliament House, to positively identify the two defendants as the persons who torched the leaf hut on 24 November 2021.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN
Solomon Star, Honiara