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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Suspect's rights took "second place": Lawyer

by Arthur Wate

Defence lawyer, Colin Baker, asked an Australian policewoman yesterday if an accused man’s rights had “taken second place” to police travel “preferences”.

Sergeant Sinead Done, to whom the question had been addressed, flatly denied the suggestion. “No,” she said.

Mr Baker questioned both Sergeant Done and her colleague Sergeant Dianne Suter, about the way they interviewed a Malaitan man, accused of murder.

The man, Lee Aludani, was among five men and one woman who appeared in the High Court yesterday, on charges arising from the deaths of two special constables. Former MEF leader Jimmy (Rasta) Lusibaea was also among those charged.

The police interview with Mr Aludani was conducted in an air conditioned shipping container, at the Guadalcanal Beach Resort, where RAMSI police were stationed. It coincided with a police rotation. Two officers, who had been involved in the case, were the due to return, almost immediately, to Australia.

Mr Baker said the interview had been conducted in a “rush.” He said the two policewomen had kept on questioning Mr Aludani, without getting a lawyer for him, even though he had asked for one. Mr Baker’s questioning was sharp at times.

“You don’t think Mr Aludani’s rights are more important than your travel arrangements?” he asked Sergeant Done, at one point. “His rights took second place to your preferences, didn’t they?” he added. Sergeant Done flatly rejected that suggestion.

Mr Baker is asking High Court judge, Justice Naqiolevu, to rule that material the two policewomen obtained in that interview be rejected as evidence in the case. The judge is expected to rule on that next week.

Mr Baker said Mr Aludani asked for a lawyer, because he had not been in trouble with the police before and did not know what would happen. Despite that request, the two policewomen had continued to question Mr Aludani, without a lawyer being present.
“You did not want anyone there who was going to interfere with your questioning did you?” he asked Sergeant Suter. “That was not my state of mind, My Lord,” she replied, addressing the judge.

Mr Baker said the two policewomen had acted hastily, in seeking the interview. “You were in a big hurry to get out there and interview him, weren’t you?” he asked. “I did what I was asked to do,” Sergeant Suter replied.

Aludani had appeared in court, on Malaita, the day before the interview. He had then been flown to Honiara and imprisoned at Rove. The police took him to GBR the following day.

Mr Baker questioned Sergeant Suter closely, on issues arising from the police transcript of the interview with Mr Aludani. “After he asked for a lawyer, you said he could have a lawyer later. “How did that happen?” Mr Baker asked. “I don’t recall telling him that he could have a lawyer later,” Sergeant Suter replied.

“He said he wanted a lawyer.“He was charged with murder.“It was after he had appeared in court.“That did not concern you?” Mr Baker asked.“You did not care about that?”
“You just charged ahead with the interview, didn’t you?” Mr Baker declared.
“Even though he had asked for a lawyer.”

“No, My Lord,” Sergeant Suter said. Sergeant Done said Mr Aludani had been happy to talk to both her and Sergeant Suter at first, but had later asked for a lawyer.
The court was told that Mr Aludani did not speak pidgin very well and spoke in his own language, at times, during the interview. A Royal Solomon Islands Police Officer acted as interpreter during the interview.

The others, who also appeared before the court yesterday, were Rocky Diobesi, Mamanu Fataloa and Vika Koto. Mr Baker said he would present further documentary evidence to the court tomorrow.

source: Solomon Star


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