Defense Counsel argues for leniency

March 21, 2024 4:55 pm

Former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho in court today

The counsel of former Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and suspended Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho have asserted that in accordance with Section 16(1) of the Sentencing and Penalty Act, the court is obliged to take into account multiple factors before recording a conviction for sentencing purposes.

Devanesh Sharma emphasized the importance of taking into account the nature of the offense, the offender’s character and history as well as the impact the conviction will have on their socio-economic or social wellbeing including employment prospects.

While responding to the State’s sentencing submission, he pointed out that previous cases cited by the State involved breaches of institutionalized procedures unlike the case against Bainimarama and Qiliho.

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Sharma also contested the State’s assertion that previous good character should not be considered in mitigation, citing Section 4(2)(i) of the Act which mandates the court to consider the convicted individual’s previous character, reputation and contributions to the community.

Sharma argued that given Bainimarama’s and Qiliho’s extensive service to Fiji particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, they deserve leniency from the court.

He advocated for a suspended sentence contrasting the State’s push for custodial sentences, which favor the upper range of the tariff.

Magistrate Seini Puamau had refrained from pronouncing Bainimarama and Qiliho guilty as directed by Acting Chief Justice Salesi Temo although she acknowledged the High Court’s findings against them.

During the sentencing submission in the Suva Magistrates Court, Sharma addressed the issue of repentance and remorse, arguing against considering them as mitigating factors due to the defendants initially pleading not guilty.

He urged the court to consider the totality of evidence presented during the trial and any aggravating factors attached to the offense, proposing a sentence of less than two years if imposed.

State counsel Laisani Tabuakuro countered Sharma’s arguments highlighting the abuse of power by Bainimarama and Qiliho.

She stressed the need for the sentence to serve as a deterrent, citing past cases involving individuals in positions of authority who received custodial sentences.

Tabuakuro recommended imprisonment ranging from 12 to 36 months for Bainimarama and adherence to sentencing guidelines for Qiliho which suggest a sentence between six to 10 years for abuse of office.

Magistrate Seini Puamau will sentence the duo next Thursday.