by Vanessa Knight – EM TV News, Port Moresby
Former Police Commissioner, Geoffrey Vaki, has been sentenced to three years imprisonment with hard labour.
Vaki was convicted on two counts of contempt of court for failing to execute a Warrant of Arrest of Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, issued by the courts last year.
Chief Justice, Solomon Injia, sitting as National Court Judge described the crime as a dangerous trend being practiced by the police before sentencing Mr Vaki this afternoon to serve three years on each count to be served concurrently, at the Bomana Prison.
Vaki was found guilty on one count of deliberately and wilfully preventing the arrest of the Prime Minister by failing to instruct plaintiffs Director of National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate, Matthew Damaru, and his Deputy, Timothy Ginua, to execute a valid warrant of arrest issued by the District Court on the 12th of June 2014, and intentionally and wilfully making public statemen’s in the media that he would not implement the Order of the District Court, despite there being no legal impedimen’s to the execution of the arrest.
Leading up to the sentencing, Vaki’s lawyers, Greg Sheppard and Queens Council, John Griffin, pleaded for a non-custodial prison sentence due to the complexity of the case; however, Nale Lawyers, the legal representatives of the plaintiffs argued that Vaki should be sentenced to five years on each count.
Chief Justice Injia said today in court that a contempt of court charge is a serious criminal offence, however his sentencing was based on mitigating factors that include Vaki’s long service to the police force; his dedication and hard work that brought him to the ranks of Police Commissioner; his professionalism and commitment to the force and the government prior to the offences;, nil pior convictions; and being a Christian father to 7 children, the youngest being 14 years of age.
The Chief Justice went on to add that it was a serious and clear case of the most senior officer of the police force refusing to obey the command to arrest the most senior political leader of the country.
He said this posed serious implications for law enforcement in the country by setting a bad precedence for hundreds of policemen and women under his command, to accord such interpretation as they wish on a court order, and execute it according to their discretion or whim.
Assistant Commissioner of Police, Thomas Eluh, told the media that the conviction of Mr Vaki marks a sad day for the police force. He said the case is a first of its kind in the 127 years since the establishment of the PNG Royal Constabulary, as no junior officer had ever successfully convicted and sentenced a commissioner of police on contempt of court for failing to execute a warrant of arrest.
The impending warrant of arrest against the Prime Minister however cannot be executed immediately following the National Court’s decision, as there are currently two separate orders of the Courts preventing police from executing the warrant at this stage.
It is understood that Mr Vaki’s lawyers are seeking bail.