Catholic Priest acquitted of the charge of Disobedience of Lawful Orders

Catholic Priest acquitted of the charge of Disobedience of Lawful Orders

By Vijay Narayan , Navitalai Naivalurua
Thursday 11/03/2021
Father Fabiano Dakai Naduva - [image: Fiji Police]

A Catholic Priest in Levuka who was charged with Disobedience of Lawful Orders has been acquitted after the prosecution could not provide reliable and credible evidence.

Father Fabiano Dakai Naduva was charged after he held a mass in breach of the order by having a gathering of more than 20 people.

The incident happened in Tokou, Levuka on the 22nd of March, 2020.

Levuka Magistrate Tomasi Bainivalu found that there was no case to answer as the prosecution has failed to provide any reliable or credible evidence to establish or prove an essential element of the alleged offence of Disobedience of Lawful Orders.

Magistrate Bainivalu says in the cross examination, the Police Sergeant who was the first public witness, confirmed that he did not take the order given by the Prime Minister neither he had shown in court when being asked. The Sergeant said that the order was under the Public Health Order Act and the announcement was made by the Prime Minister. But Magistrate Bainivalu says the Public Health Order Act does not empower the Prime Minister to issue such directives.

Magistrate Bainivalu also says it is crystal clear that there is nowhere on the printout of the Fijian Government page which was given as evidence in the case to indicate the name of the Prime Minister giving that order.

The Magistrate says when it was put to the Sergeant that the Prime Minister does not have the power under the Public Health Act and this makes the arrest unlawful, the Sergeant maintained that the arrest was lawful. But Magistrate Bainivalu says the Sergeant and the prosecution failed to satisfy the elements to prove the charge.

He says it could be concluded that such arrests made was an unlawful one and the Sergeant himself had admitted under oath that there is no such authority under the Public Health Act given to the Prime Minister to make such directives but instead the Permanent Secretary for Health prohibiting any form of gathering.

Magistrate Bainivalu says there may be other Acts and Regulations that would empower the Prime Minister to impose directives of compliance to members of the public however in respect to the alleged charge against Father Dakai, such directives must be given by the Permanent Secretary for Health.

The Magistrate found that the prosecution’s main witness evidence has been so discredited as a result of cross-examination and is so manifestly unreliable that no reasonable tribunal could safely convict on it.

The prosecution has 28 days to appeal the case.

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