Former Permanent Secretary (PS) for the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services (MPNSCS) Edmond Sikua has been refused bail yesterday in the Honiara Magistrates’ Court.
Principal Magistrate Fatima Taeburi in her ruling yesterday said there are no exceptional circumstances in this case for her to grant him bail.
“This case is just the same as the other criminal cases that have come through the doors of this court,” Ms Taeburi said.
Ms Taeburi therefore refused the application.
Sikua has the right to appeal her ruling within 14 days from yesterday.
Sikua was convicted on 12 November 2018 on three counts of official corruption after a trial.
He was sentenced to two years imprisonment on 16 November 2018.
This was for approving works to be awarded and approving payments to be made to Beeds Investment, knowing that the company belongs to his two daughters on three occasions in 2015 and 2016.
The court has found that the prisoner has discharged his official duties on account of his two daughters receiving financial benefits of $SBD$280,700.
After tax deduction a total amount of $SBD258, 847.50 was paid to Beeds Investment.
The court heard that on 14 November 2018, he filed a petition of appeal in the High Court against the conviction.
Gabriel Suri, of Suri’s Law Practice who represents Sikua on 16 November 2018, filed an application pursuant to section 290 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) pending the outcome of the appeal.
He argued that his client should be granted bail for reasons that there is a likelihood of success of the appeal, there is likelihood of delay in hearing the appeal, and that Sikua gives an undertaking that he will not abscond and is ready to pay security cash bail of $5,000.
Mr Suri further argued that his client also proposes that his brother, Dr Derek Sikua whom is the Member of Parliament (MP) for North East Guadalcanal is prepared to be his surety.
The Crown on the other hand has strongly objected to the application.
Ms Taeburi said an application for bail after conviction is not to be treated the same with an application for bail before conviction.
“This is because the presumption of innocence no longer exists after a prisoner has been convicted by a competent court.
“A petition of appeal presented by a convicted prisoner does not in any way revive the presumption of innocence,” Ms Taeburi added in her ruling.
She further added that section 290 (1) of the CPC clearly gives the court the jurisdiction to hear and determine an application for bail or for suspension of sentence where a person convicted by the court has declared his intention to appeal or has presented a petition of appeal.
“In this case, the appeal filed by the applicant is one against the conviction and not against sentence.
“Therefore, the appropriate question is whether or not there is a likelihood that the conviction will be set aside for the arguments raised by the applicant.”
Ms Taeburi agreed with Public Prosecutor Bradley Dalipanda on this issue and she said to answer this question, she will need to review her own judgment and order of conviction.
“I cannot do that because as rightly put by Mr Suri, I am functus officio (whose duty or authority has come to an end).
“I have no authority to revisit my own decision,” she said.
She added that during the oral submissions, Mr Suri tried to interrupt Mr Dalipanda when he was addressing this issue.
Mr Suri further argued that if Ms Taeburi is functus officio then the application should be referred to another magistrate to hear and determine it.
“I must say that it is a bit too late for Mr Suri to now ask for the matter to be transferred,” Ms Taeburi said.
“He is the applicant here.
“He should have thought about his arguments properly and he should have thought about the best method to raise these arguments.”
Ms Taeburi said this issue of functus officio was only raised by the defence during the oral submission.
“In any event, I cannot determine whether there is a likelihood of success in the appeal because I cannot review my own decision,” she said.
Ms Taeburi also further added Sikua’s sentence will probably expire sometimes in early 2020 and it is quite possible for the appeal to be listed and heard in the High Court in 2019.
“I am therefore of the view that it is possible for the appeal to be heard before sentence is severed completely,” she said.
Sikua is the third public officer to have been arrested by Janus, since the establishment of the joint task-force in August 2016.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN