Paula Tupou (L), Sēinimili Tu'i'onetoa Fonua
The Supreme Court has overturned a series of convictions of disorderly behaviour in a public place handed down to former Electricity Commission interim CEO Paula Tupou. Tupou originally appeared in court following incidents which allegedly occurred in the Electricity Commission office. Evidence was given that on June 13, 2018, the Commission held a meeting to consider the contents of the job description of the position of the CEO in order  that  the position could be advertised. Tupou had prepared  a draft of the  job description in which he had stated that a minimum requirement was that an applicant was to hold an Electrical Engineering degree, the qualification Paula held, but which had been deleted. Tupou wa angered by this and attacked another member of the commission,  Seinimili, who he blamed for the deletion. He called her insane (vale ngangau). On July 9, 2018 the Commission met again. At that meeting Seinimili proposed that Tupou’s position as CEO be terminated because he had only been appointed as interim CEO, and because he was obstructing the appointment of another CEO .  Tupou said: “You are very stupid, your qualification is that you are the niece of the Minister of Finance.” On this and other evidence Tupou was convicted on four charges. However, in his report on the case, Judge Niu said the magistrate who heard the original case had erred in his judgement. He said the magistrate had wrongly concluded that the Electricity Commission office was a public place. Judge Niu said that to secure a conviction it needed to be proved that the incident referred to took place in a public area. This would have required proof that the public were allowed to enter the CEO’s room and listen to or participate in the meetings of the Commission. However, the magistrate did not do this. “She seemed to think that the whole house was the office of the Commission  and that it was a public place because  the  public were entitled to come to it without condition,” Judge Niu said. “She gave no evidence that members  of  the  public  attended the two meetings or were entitled to be present and called no witness to  give evidence to that effect. “From the transcript of her evidence,  she  did  not even begin to give such evidence, because of her mistaken  belief that   the office of  the Electricity Commission was already a public place.” Judge Niu said the convictions on all four charges were therefore quashed. The fines imposed on Tupou were to be refunded. The main points
  • The Supreme Court has overturned a series of convictions of disorderly behaviour in a public place handed down to former member of the Electricity Commission Paula Tupou.
  • Tupou  originally appeared in court following incidents which allegedly occurred  in the Electricity Commission office.

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