Rakeimata Koronui has been denied permission to return to New Zealand, where he says his father is terminally ill and dying of cancer.
Koronui appeared in the Avarua High Court last Thursday. The defendant, who does not live permanently in Rarotonga, asked the court’s permission to travel to New Zealand, as he had recently learnt his father was dying of cancer, and could pass away at any time.
Koronui is represented by defence counsel Norman George, but Mark Short has been representing his clients whilst George has been in the outer islands.
On Thursday, Short asked the court for the second time that the defendant be granted leave to visit his ill father.
He suggested leave could be granted on the condition Koronui purchased a return ticket and provided proof of his intention to return to Rarotonga.
Short said the case had previously been adjourned for a week because prosecution and defence had been deciding what to do about the situation.
“I understand he (the father) is in a hospital in Auckland, New Zealand and that he is terminally ill.
“The defendant wanted to make an application to the court to allow him to go to New Zealand.
“He is not a flight risk. He has a job here, so I know he will definitely come back. He showed me some photos of the father in hospital and it would seem that it is relatively urgent,” Short said.
Williams asked if Koronui had proof he had bought a return ticket and Short said his client was waiting approval from the court to go to New Zealand before buying one.
“He doesn’t want to go purchase the ticket only to be told he can’t leave the country.”
Williams said that in the past under similar circumstances she had allowed people facing worse charges to travel to New Zealand and back.
“So there is not a problem here. We will see what prosecutions have to say though,” she added.
Police Prosecutor Senior Sergeant Fairoa Tararo said police strongly opposed Koronui’s application to be released.
“There is no guarantee he will come back. We are objecting until he is sentenced and we believe that in consultation with his counsel Norman George - once he returns, that there shouldn’t be a problem and we can deal with this matter.
“I have spoken with the victims in the case and they are eager to see justice done.
“If you are going to grant leave, we ask that a bail bond of over $2000 be imposed,” Tararo said.
“There seems to be an intention to prevent this man from seeing his father,” Short interjected.
“There have been many cases in the past where we have applied for defendants to be released on more serious charges than what this man is facing.
“He will return; he enjoys his job. He is working for a cruise operation and he is really enjoying living here.
“There are photos on his phone that show his father in hospital, he is not going to be a flight risk,” Short said.
“I would like to see these photos if possible,” Williams said.
However, Koronui told the court he was unable to show the photos as his phone had run out of power.
“I can confirm that I have seen the photos, because I myself wanted to confirm that his father is ill, Short said.
Tararo said confirmation of the father’s condition would have to come from the hospital in New Zealand.
“We need to see a document that states that his father is in hospital. We would like to see something solid, we’ve already advised his counsel and before we do agree for him to return home we need to see some solid proof.”
Probation Officer Angelique Elisaia said there was a process in place for these kinds of situations.
“If it is a matter of urgency, then it is only a matter of flicking an email across to the police to say, that yes this person is very ill.”
Short said he was organising a time for Koronui to visit his office and seek confirmation, but Elisaia said it should have been sorted out “days ago”.
Williams said the court had requested a medical report, or some other substantial proof.
“Once you’ve got that medical document then we can move things along,” Williams said.
Taroro said Koronui’s charges were serious and police needed solid proof his father was ill.
“He is facing two charges; they are serious charges and we need solid proof,” Tararo said.
“But if I get a letter that says his father has dying of cancer I also have to take that into consideration. So if you can get that information then we can go from there,” Williams told the court.
Koronui was stood down, and Short told the court that he would attempt to obtain the relevant information that evening.
The matter was adjourned to a date to be set by the court registrar.