Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke handed down a nine year sentence for 29 year old Atapana Taliaoa of Vaitele after the Court viewed confronting security camera footage of the accused beating a night watchman with a piece of timber.
On the 19th of January 2019, the victim had fallen asleep at around 5.45am after doing the night shift as a night watchman for a store in Vaitele. Taliaoa who had appeared in Court for previous charges relating to narcotics and assault, was seen on video footage beating the victim as he slept.
Justice Leiataualesa told the defendant that this was not like other cases where they are only presented with photographs of the scene and victim descriptions of alleged crimes.
“In your case however the assessors as well as myself had the opportunity to observe you and your actions that morning;
“The video footage is confronting in showing your absolute disregard for the welfare of the victim and for human life. It was disgraceful and cowardly on your part for which you should be ashamed.”
“As the victim was asleep and vulnerable on the bench, you came to him and standing above his head you attacked him with a piece of timber in circumstances for which he had no opportunity to defend himself from your cowardly acts”.
Justice Leiataualesa continues to describe what they had seen as the defendent takes 8 strikes to the head and upper body of the night watchman.
“You took short breaks between your assault on the victim, watched him and when he stirred you would strike the victim again;
“You showed no sense of decency. It is difficult to understand the cruelty and the heartlessless that you showed to the victim that morning”.
The defendant came to where the victim was sleeping armed with a piece of timber. He gave the security camera at the shop a defiant and rude gesture, and then he moved one of the security cameras to face away from where the victim was sleeping so that he would not be seen, without realising that there was a second camera recording in the area.
The Court heard that after 13 minutes of being in and around where the victim slept, he then struck the victim eight times with the timber. The various strikes being around the victim’s head and upper body.
The eight strikes were inflicted in the period of just under 2 minutes. As a result of the defendant’s actions, the victim sustained a laceration on his scalp, a laceration to the lower jaw, and a fractured jaw.
The 37 year old victim was hospitalised for two weeks. According to the victim impact report the hospital bill cost him $300 tala but the cost of the incident for him exceeds $1000. The victim also said that there had been no reconciliation or attmpt to apologise either by the defendant or by his family.
The aggravating features included the defendant being pre-armed with a peice of timber and the use of the timber as a weapon.
When given a chance to speak in Court Taliaoa made reference to the victim allegedly bullying his siblings and younger cousins when they go to shop at this store. He said he wanted to teach him a lesson.
Taliaoa was convicted in 2015 for nacotics and at the time he was described by his brother as a hardworking person, quiet and reliable, however in his updated pre sentence report he was described by his uncle as a troublesome man with a tendency to run away from home.
The defendant is a graduate of Leifiifi College who was schooled to Year 13. He was previously employed as an apprentice carpenter. He also held other jobs including a security guard and had also been a taxi driver.
“You started as a apprentice carpenter and showed all the promise of being a constructive and positive member of society. Whether it is alcohol or the wrong friends or as in most cases that seem to come before the Court a combination of both that has led your life to where you stand today, it is always disappointing to see young lives such as yours wasted,” said Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke.