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Court dismisses armed robbery charges against Heamani Lopeti

Radio & TV Tonga, Nuku’alofa, 11/05/2017


An unrepresented accused got off charges with armed robbery after the court rejected the identification evidence presented.  The judge expressed concern over police failure to adopt proper identification procedure.


Justice Charles Cato dismissed the charge of Heamani Lopeti for using a pistol to rob an Asian Shop at Longolongo on March 25th 2016.


There was not enough evidence to prove Lopeti was guilty, apart from an informant who was not called a witness during the trial.


Tongan girl who worked at the shop claimed she saw the robber short time before he entered the shop and when he left, but his face was covered.


Lopeti cross examined the girl to find out that the officer showed her a picture of him ahead of the trial.


Justice Cato then conducted a voir dire – a procedure to examine the witnesses and found the evidence is admissible and a prima facie has not been established.


The charge of armed robbery was dismissed after Prosecutor Tevita ‘Aho agreed with the judge.


‘Aho was surprised to find out that the officer had shown the witness a photograph of the accused.


Tonga Police say they will look into the concerns from the judge on this case.


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