Repeat Offender with History of Mental Health Sentenced to Prison

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A young male from Sinamoga was yesterday sentenced to two years and five months imprisonment by Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke after pleading guilty to nine charges of burglary and theft in separate incidents that occurred between November 2019 and May 2020.

Michael Tiatia, now 20, is a repeat offender who has appeared before the Courts on multiple occasions for various incidents over the years, but always managed to be granted bail due to a claim by his mother that her son has mental health problems. His mother told the Court that he attended Loto Taumafai school for children with disabilities and that his offending was attributed to his age, immaturity and his learning difficuties.

Michael continued to re-offend until he was caught again, charged and kept in custody in May this year. He also told the Court quite adamantly that he does not have a mental health problem.

In handing down the sentence, Justice Leiataualesa called on authorities to find ways to address the mental health and special needs of offenders for the sake of public safety.

“You are one of an increasing number of people who are coming to Court with serious mental health problems and special needs to divert you from crime;

“You will likely continue to be a risk to the community and it is important that the relevant authorities give some consideration to how to address the mental health and special needs of people such as yourself so that the risk to the community is minimised”, said the Supreme Court Justice.

“As a long-term solution to your offending, I doubt that imprisonment is likely to deter you from such offending when you are released from prison”, said Justice Leiataualesa.

According to the police summary of facts, Michael broke into a church minister’s house while he was asleep on 01 November 2019 and stole his car keys. He left for a joy ride and later returned and entered through a window to the house, taking an ie toga (fine mat) worth $10,000 tala as he left.

In another incident the Court heard that Michael managed to break into a Sinamoga home six times. He stole money and personal belongings, and on one occasion, he was in the room of the owner of the house while she was sleeping.

During sentencing the Court heard Victim Impact Reports (VIR) where victims described feeling traumatised, frightened and unsafe within their own homes.

Justice Leiataualesa told the defendant that an imprisonment term is appropriate for him because he has not shown any signs of change despite being referred by the Court to several rehabilitation programs.


Marieta H Ilalio