I refer to the above which was a subject of discussion on some earlier issues of your paper.
Mr Levo has passed on and I have written to Theo the same, so I will not want to speak about Levo in the media, any more than this.
My response is to the extent of clarifying what might been perceived as a delay by my office in completing the matter against Levo in time.
As I am usually conservative about keeping records and basing my story on facts, this reply is equally based on the history of appearances on record. All of that can be physically crossed checked on the appearance’s return (internal record of proceedings) in file.
This is my response.
The accused, Charles Levo,was arrested and charged on 23 June 2009. As is often the practice at the Magistrate’s Courts, the matter had to be mentioned so as to gauze the preparation by parties should the matter be contested or pleaded. Several mentions were made between 23 June and 14 September 2009. On 28 September 2009, barely 3 months after the first appearance in court, the matter was set down for trial at the Magistrate’s court. At the time he had 3 separate matters (cases):-
(i) The case of 5 counts of conversion (complaint by members of his tribe) was set down for a week to commence on 2nd November 2009 (1 week);
(ii) The2nd case – one of 29/22 counts of Conversion (complaint by Theo) was set down for trial from 2 – 13 November 2009 (2 weeks);
(iii) The 3rd case against the same person, one of assaulting police in execution of his duties, alternatively, common assault (complaint by a Police Officer), was set down for trial for 26-27 November 2009;
It was agreed that these matters were to be tried separately as they were unrelated incidents.
On 16 October 2009, the accused applied for bail variation so he could attend to his ailing father at his home village in the Shortlands. He was given the variation by court. On 20 October 2009, when the matter went for interim mention in preparation for trial, the court vacated all trial dates as the accused had left for his home village to attend to his sick father and would not return until 10 November 2009.
The matters were adjourned for further mention on 12 November 2009. On this date, new trial dates were set down/fixed;
(i) 9 – 12 February 2010 for the assault matter;
(ii) 22 March – 2 April 2010 for the 5 counts of Conversion Matters;
(iii) Theo’s complaint (Conversion) was set down for 5 – 30 April 2010.
On 15 January 2010, since the matter had been set down for trial, this was heard for interim mention only. On this day, the presiding Magistrate determined that the charges of money laundering and conversion against the accused were seriously beyond the Magistrate’s jurisdiction which warranted committal to the High Court. A Short Form Preliminary Inquiry (SFPI) was set down for 8 March 2010 in that regard.
The SFPI took place on 8 March 2010. The Ruling was handed down on 12 March 2010. The matter was committed to the High Court for trial.
5 Counts of Conversion Case
For these charges, the accused was tried at the Central Magistrate’s Court on 29, 30 &31 March and 28, 29 and 30 April 2010.
Judgment was delivered on 28 May 2010. He was sentenced, among other sentences, to 2 years imprisonment.
On this particular matter, the accused had been fully dealt with (tried, convicted and sentenced).
Assaulting a police officer in execution of police duties
In relation to the assault case, on 1 November 2010, the court was informed by the prosecutions that a letter was received from the complainant to withdraw the assault complaint. According to the letter, the complainant did not wish to proceed with the case as he says had already moved on with his life. On application, the court discharged the accused and acquitted him of this charge.
The complaint by Theo (29/22 Counts of Conversion)
After the Committal Proceeding in March 2010, the first DIRECTIONS HEARING at the High Court was set down for 26 August 2011. On this day, the accused did not turn up for DIRECTIONS. The matter was next called on 9 September 2011. On this occasion, trial was set down for 12 March – 5 April 2012.
It should be noted that during this period, the High Court listed cases according to dates of committals (prioritizing). This means that cases that were committed in 2010 would not be listed until the earlier committals were listed. That adds on to the long wait…
On 12 March – 5 April 2012, trial did not proceed as the prosecutions and the defense were told that no judge was available to hear the matter.
The matter was then adjourned to 28 September 2012 for further directions. As Judges’ calendar was full till end of the year, the next trial date was fixed for 4 -28 March 2013.
The prosecution was, again, fully prepared to prosecute this matter and to have it done with this time. In court, on the day for trial, the defence attorney withdrew his representation as the accused withdrew his instructions and preferred private representation. The prosecutions was not pleased with the outcome due to costs incurred, as we had to fly in the complainant all the way from Australia, and that this matter was taking longer to dispose of. It was a sorry state of affairs for the prosecutions but one that was beyond its control.
On 8 March 2013 the accused had engaged a private practitioner and informed court accordingly. The matter was then set down for trial on 2 September 2013 as it was during this period that was convenient to the private lawyer. By this time, a new system was introduced by the High Court Registry to reduce court time, i.e. to file agreed facts and list of witnesses that were relevant to be called. As the defence had not given agreement on, among other things, facts, the trial dates for September were again vacated.
The next trial date set down by the High Court Listing Committee was for 5 – 30 May 2014. Note however, that on 31 January 2014, the matter was delisted – papers required by court were not filed as defence had not responded to agreeing to the agreed facts, etc as prepared by the prosecutions by this date.
The accused met his death in the week supposedly for his trial (vacated).
DPP and Office never turned a blind eye on this case
My office and the public prosecutor had not turned a blind eye on the matters against the accused, now deceased. We never dealt with this matter or the complaints by Theo callously. The DPP or his Office had no personal preference. The DPP or his office did not look at an accused person or a complainant and see him/her by the colour of his skin. We see all persons the same. Each wants justice, whether a person charged with an offence or one who complains of a wrong being committed against him/her, and each case is to be dealt with by its own merits.
The same care and zeal was accorded to the complaints by Theo.
We did not foresee or contemplate that Levo was to die at such a time. The prosecutions had done its part to prepare for trial and to dispose of the matter professionally, ethically and timely. Other factors, some that were beyond our control, dictated how the matter was not completed by the time of Levo’s death.
We had done our part though, our utmost best to expedite the matter. I did not let go of the matter for 5 years. As the records have shown, the prosecutions were ready at times.
Of the 3 cases involving Levo, one was completed and ended Levo in prison. Levo was discharged of the assault matter. And the 3rd case was to be tried in 2012 and 2013 but was adjourned by court, not by prosecutions. He again was to be tried in 2014 but now never will, as he had passed on from this life.
On the same day I was informed of Levo’s death, I asked my officer (the prosecuting counsel) to notify Theo immediately. My officer reported that she informed Theo accordingly.
DPP and Office sets standards and fair
Our attendance at overseas conferences and meetings introduces our understanding of prosecutorial responsibility beyond our national setting.
To any person who may be asking whether the DPP or his Office is doing anything about this matter, I say in response,
“The DPP and his Office have always been careful and zealously guarding its operations with due care and diligence. We did our best to document, both manually and electronically, our work. Our annual reports and the newly introduced ODPP Inavoso (Newsletter) tell of our story. Our Office Manual guides us and our Office Prosecutions Policy illuminates our path to decision making; the National Constitution is our beacon and the teachings in the Holy Bible, our daily consciousness. We are doing our best to improve on our standards and we never let down our guards without considering the consequences of any shortfall. Still, there is a lot to achieve.”
Finally, I do hope that when people in places of authority decide on issues that are challenging, whether it be in court or out of court, commonsense should dictate that the office is constituted by human beings: – individuals who have feelings and who are confronted in their own way by other things in life. Should there be issues arising, in the way we do our work, thatappropriate avenues are employed to address them.
In saying all that, may I re-emphasize, that the DPP and his office tries its best, in contributing to bringing about a just and fair society for all, as we join all else in the fight against crime. That is a huge call, but we can do it TOGETHER, GOD WILLING.”
By Ronald Bei Talasasa Jr
Director of Public Prosecutions