What plausible answer can a public office such as the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Santo provide when a serious criminal matter is delayed for a year because the case is called for a call over when the evidence is so clear: captured on a video with the witnesses present? The assault occurred in March 2018 and today the victims are still waiting to see justice done. At one time delays were caused because the defendant wanted all documents translated into his language of preference, English instead of Bislama. And would you believe it that after a year, no translation has been forthcoming and the case has not yet seen the light of day? Campaign for Justice is asking: “Is this normal?”
The case in question, while not special as such, the chain of events that have developed in the course of the 12 months are worth a closer inspection because something does not look right.
During the course of a police investigation the victims complained that there were other charges that were never considered by the Prosecution.
Strangely the office of the public prosecutor in Santo now claims it does not have the recent application to adjourn the case in the Supreme Court that was heard in January 2019 and that they did not know anything about it until two days before the case was due back in Court as originally planned: on 25th February 2019. They insisted they were not present during an urgent hearing on 09th January 2019 and did not know about it where the judge clearly minuted that the officer handling the matter was actually present!
This is a case that dates back to March 20 and 21 of 2018 involving a convicted assaulter from New Zealand, Nigel Giltrap (who was convicted and sentenced to 22 months of jail time) on an elderly couple in Santo.
The assault was captured on CCTV camera and later uploaded on YouTube and Vimeo channels. On the next day, while copies of the footage were being downloaded for evidence purposes, the assailant appeared suddenly again out of nowhere and assaulted the third victim, attempting to remove the video which the third victim had on his computer.
The case was first listed for plea on April 26th and then moved to 28th of June 2018. But for reasons only known to the Office of the Public Prosecutor, it was adjourned again to the next month on 12th July, and then 6th August, then 21st September, 19th November 2018, 9th January and then 25th February 2019. The case has now been adjourned further to this month.
Sometimes in September 2018, the victims were becoming increasingly frustrated and irritated at the slackness of the prosecutors to bring about a speedier resolution to the ongoing adjournments. It got to the point where due to persistent enquiries from C4J and the victims, the Public Prosecutor eventually obliged and appointed a new officer to take on the case.
In the ensuing weeks and months, and as a result of more delays and excuses, offers were made by the victims to fund a private prosecutor. All they needed was a formal appointment from the Public Prosecutor himself as provided for under the Act of the Public Prosecutor. The Public Prosecutor declined the offer. The reason, said the prosecutor himself was that he did not want such an arrangement to undermine the office.
The Public prosecutor in Vila has remained open to assist as much as possible but his staff in the Santo office appear not to have the same attitude and certainly total lack of motivation which throws a doubt on their integrity and or capacity.
It took months for the prosecutor in Santo to accept to change the case from Magistrates Court to Supreme Court due to evidence of permanent damage caused to one of the victims even though evidence was forwarded at least two times to the same prosecutor
The victims, including Campaign for Justice have had to accept all the decisions and directions. But as more days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, it is becoming more and more obvious that the prosecution is at the least not progressing normally and efficiently.
Previously the case was being handled by prosecutor Damien Boe. When it became apparent that things were not progressing as anticipated, and the victims, together with C4J begun enquiring about the status of the case, the public prosecutor stood down his officer and delegated the case to a second prosecutor, Ken Massing. Even with this change of personality, the situation remained unmoved and more excuses were elicited.
Last month on 09th January 2019, the accused managed to convince the Judge that he needed to go back to New Zealand and could not be there on the next due date for the call of the case on 25th February 2019, and adjourned the case for 11th March 2019, date which the prosecutor knew the victims were not going to be present. However the Prosecution has since indicated that it was a only a call over and that the victims did not need to be there. But it is a concern that such an accused person can obtain so many delays in the prosecution of his case without any strong opposition of the prosecution when originally his bail terms and orders was for him not to go out of the country. Since that order was made, Mr Giltrap has travelled many times to New Zealand!
And the case has not progressed creating anguish and despair and loss of confidence of the victims in the Justice system.
So now the case is adjourned for 11th March 2019 as indicated in this Supreme Court case listing here and who knows what will be the next excuse?
Delays in Santo with the police and the judiciary are becoming quite a concern.
As if this was not enough, the second officer – supposedly handling the matter has now told the victim he was not aware of any hearing, and wait for this: neither does he possess any of the document/application referred to in this hearing of 09th January 2019! However minutes from the Supreme Court by Mr Justice Andree Wiltens spells it out clearly that Mr Massing was present for the adjournment. See below.
As to who is telling the truth is the million dollar question one must ask????
We wish to dwell a little on this particular character – Mr Nigel Giltrap. Who is he and what sort of a personality is he? A quick search by Google yielded the following result. According to New Zealand media, Mr Giltrap, believed to be now in his early 50s is a convicted criminal. In 2009 the Christchurch man was tried and successfully convicted in New Zealand for pouring toxic paint on his ex-partner. Campaign for Justice has official documents from the New Zealand Ministry of Justice confirming Mr. Giltrap’s criminal record in New Zealand.
The second question that one must ask is this. If this is a convicted criminal, how on earth did the Vanuatu Investment Promotion Authority (VIPA) overlook this when they granted him approval to establish in Vanuatu?? These are serious questions that must be asked of the authorities concerned. What sort of due diligence was conducted by VIPA before approving his investment certificate? Or was there ever a due diligence conducted?? If he lied why hasn’t he be prosecuted. Foreign investors in the past have been tried and for this type of offence and jailed:
Making false declaration, contrary to Section 76 of the Penal Code Act [CAP. 135]
Providing false information, contrary to Section 22 (1) (a) of the Immigration Act[Cap. 66]
How do Immigration and VIPA satisfy themselves that the person in question has passed “the character test” as required in the Immigration Act, and how could he pass the test with his conviction:
Section 38. Character test
(1) A person does not pass the character test if:
(a) the person has been sentenced to:
(i) death; or
(ii) imprisonment for life; or
(iii) a term of imprisonment of 12 months or more; or
(iv) 2 or more terms of imprisonment (whether on one or more occasions) where the total of those terms is 2 years or more; or..
According to section 38 of the Immigration Act, Mr Giltrap did not pass the test.
Campaign for Justice is also aware that Mr Giltrap has other similar cases in Vanuatu concerning his violent behaviour with Air Vanuatu where in 2016 he allegedly smashed keyboards at the Air Vanuatu Office in Santo following Air Vanuatu’s cancellation of an Auckland flight due to an accident leaving his two family members stranded in New Zealand.
Going back to this delay business, come March 11th 2019, if no further progress is made and more excuses are made it will be the 8th time that the case has been adjourned. C4J and the victims of this assault case will have a very difficult situation of drawing the line between sanity and madness if the case is delayed the 8th time.
Currently, as it stands, it is utterly irresponsible and unacceptable that a case of this nature – which seems to have all the supporting evidence and witnesses, is still being toyed with one year on.
It casts huge doubts in the offices of the government responsible for delivery of justice in this country. Someone must be held to account for all this.