Duties and functions

It is inappropriate for a minister to “pressure” the judiciary to impose harsher sentences

Rosy Akbar, Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, and Fred Wesley, Editor of the Fiji Times

The Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation says it has never and never plans to interfere in the sentencing process of the justice system and that the Director of Prosecutions public authorities used incorrect and out-of-context information published in the Fiji Times to make an inaccurate statement. about Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation, Rosy Akbar.

The ministry says that when the minister says she would push for tougher sentences for perpetrators of rape and sexual violence, she is speaking as a woman and mother who has fought for these causes for most of her life.

The ministry says the DPP misquoted Akbar, who is well aware that this is a judicial process, and that the word ‘lobby’ in the Fiji Times article referred to a consultation process closed and did not refer to any current or specific case. .

It indicates that the DPP, in its statement, also mentioned that Akbar had met the child who witnessed Volivoli’s homicide, and that this could potentially jeopardize any future prosecution.

The ministry says this is also incorrect.

It says the victim’s mother had died and that Akbar, along with ministry officials, attended her funeral.

The Ministry adds that the Department of Social Welfare is responsible for assessing the care and protection of children who have lost their parents and that in carrying out their duties, Ministry officials have discussed the guardianship of the two sisters. and have not interfered with the case in any way but have the role of the ministry.

He emphasizes that no witnesses were interfered with in any way.

The ministry further states that as the minister responsible for the care and protection of children, women, the disadvantaged, the disabled and the elderly, Akbar will continue to provide and support child protection programs. childhood, gender mainstreaming, social protection and empowerment to meet people’s needs and reduce poverty in Fiji.

Akbar says that with regard to the safety, well-being and well-being of the child in the care of the state through the Ministry of Women, Children and the Fight against poverty, she takes full responsibility.

Meanwhile, Fiji Times editor Fred Wesley said he accurately reported the minister’s comments. He says the Women’s Ministry statement does not explain what was incorrect or out of context in the Fiji Times report.

Wesley says it’s not unusual for government departments to claim the Fiji Times is spreading misinformation.

He adds that they are used to these claims, but the Fiji Times does not.

We have also contacted the DPP for their response. They haven’t responded yet.

DPP calls Akbar’s comments inappropriateBy Dhanjay DeoThursday 09/06/2022

Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde. [Image: Supplied]

Recent comments made by Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Reduction Rosy Akbar during a consultation last week have been called inappropriate by Director of Public Prosecutions Christopher Pryde.

Pryde said in an article published today in the Fiji Times, Akbar said she would push for tougher measures in every case of domestic violence and sexual offenses because it could save lives.

He says sentencing is a judicial function and is undertaken with care by the courts in accordance with the Sentencing and Sanctions Act 2009 and the court tariffs applicable to the offence.

Pryde adds that courts impose sentences that reflect the seriousness of the offense and take into account the various aggravating and mitigating factors unique to each individual case. He further says that Fiji has some of the harshest sentences for sex offenses where the penalty for rape is life imprisonment and the Supreme Court in 2018 increased the tariff of child rape from 11 to 20 years by imprisonment and declared that, in particularly heinous cases, the courts will exceed this tariff.

He says it is therefore inappropriate for the minister, as a member of the executive branch of government, to attempt to interfere in the sentencing process which is clearly a judicial function.

The DPP further asserts that any changes to the statutory law must be brought before parliament and that the sentence of a convicted person must be handed down independently by the courts applying the law of parliament without interference.

Pryde says the article also reported that the minister had met the child who witnessed Volivoli’s homicide.

He says that as this matter is under police investigation, it is inappropriate for the minister to communicate with prosecution witnesses in any capacity as it could potentially jeopardize any future prosecution.

The DPP says there are procedures in place to deal with vulnerable witnesses such as children, and that it is important that only professionally trained people are involved in the process to minimize trauma to the child and protect the evidence.

He further says that there is a reason why the Constitution separates the functions of the executive, legislative and judiciary and the boundaries separating each branch of government must be respected.

Pryde also argues that matters such as bail or sentencing are judicial functions and that the judiciary should be allowed to make decisions on these matters without pressuring them or other pressures outside of the judicial process.

We asked Akbar for an answer. She hasn’t answered yet.