Court to Decide on Minimum Parole Period for Youth who Pleaded Guilty to Murder

21 year old Iakopo Simeti with lawyer Su'a Helene Wallwork

The sentencing of Iakopo Simeti who pleaded guilty to murder following the death of a man at Falelauniu in May last year has been adjourned while Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke considers counsel submissions regarding an appropriate minimum parole period.

Prosecution has submitted that the 21-year-old defendant should be subject to a minimum period of 17 years before he is eligible for parole under section 66 of Samoa’s Sentencing Act which came into force in 2016.

Defense Counsel Su’a Helene Wallwork strongly objected on behalf of her client who had entered an early guilty plea, accepting responsibility for his actions.

Section 65 of the Sentencing Act states that if a court sentences a defendant convicted of murder to life imprisonment, it may order that the defendant serve a minimum period of imprisonment for that sentence, of not less than 10 years.

Section 66 however lists a number of specific exceptional circumstances for which the court must issue a sentence for murder with a minimum period of 17 years.

Su’a argued that the circumstances of her client’s case did not satisfy the provisions of section 66 of the Sentencing Act, referring to the case of Police vs Ietitaia as having similar circumstances, yet a minimum period 10 years was applied.

The police summary of facts which has been accepted by the accused states that Simeti was drinking with some men from the village at Falelauniu when an arguement broke out.

Iakopo Simeti, 21 years of Fatuvalu Safune.

Simeti then left the group and walked to his home which was quite a distance away. The summary of facts states that Simeti had changed his clothes, and returned over an hour later with a knife, and stabbed one of the men he had argued with earlier. The man had later died at Motootua hospital of stab wounds.

Simeti entered a guilty plea in December last year before Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke who sought confirmation from the accused to ensure that he had fully understood the charges.

At the time, Justice Leiataualesa ordered the charges to be read out again for the information of the accused.

“You do know that this charge has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment?”, Justice Clarke had asked at the time.

Iakopo Simeti heard the charges and replied, “yes”.

Judge Leiataualesa will consider submissions put forward by counsels and deliver his final sentence next Monday 9th March 2020.

Maina Vai