The Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of the Office of the Attorney General against suspended lawyer Tafaogalupe Pa’u Mulitalo.
The ruling is in relation to a charge of theft and obtaining by deception by the police against the suspended lawyer, which the Supreme Court dismissed in April this year.
But the Office of the Attorney General has appealed the Supreme Court decision, namely the charge of failing to stop and ascertain injury.
The Court of Appeal ruling was delivered by Justice Harrison, Justice Fisher, Justice Tuatagaloa and Justice Leiataualesa last Thursday.
“We are satisfied that in the peculiar circumstances of this case the Judge’s failure to give reasons for his conclusion on credibility amounted to an error of the law.
“We are not satisfied that the acquittal was “unreasonable” in the statutory sense discussed earlier. We have not had the opportunity to hear the conflicting witnesses and to substitute our own decision on credibility.
“The proper course is to direct a new trial pursuant to section 177(6)9b). Therefore, the appeal is allowed and the respondent is remanded to the Supreme Court for trial on the obtaining by deceptions charge,” the judges stated in their ruling.
The Supreme Court matter is in connection to the construction of a home and office for Tafaogalupe. Tafaogalupe wanted to build a house on a property he owns in Lalovaea and became acquainted with Alapati Brown, owner of A.L.C.C. Brown Construction. Tafaogalupe represented Brown in a 2015 court proceeding, which the former won for his client, leading to the lawyer asking the builder to build him a house.
But a fallout between the suspended lawyer and his client back then – over the building specifications of the house – led to an abrupt halt in the work and refusal by Tafaogalupe to release construction equipment until Brown repaid $26,000.
The construction company then made a complaint to police leading to the charges of theft and obtaining by deception against the suspended lawyer back then. But the Supreme Court, when the matter went before it in April this year, dismissed the charges as it said they could not be proven.