Yesterday, Supreme Court Justice, Tologata Leilani Tuala-Warren discharged without conviction a 17-year-old boy who was playing with a gas lighter setting the gas pumps on fire.
Due to the age of the young man age, a suppression order has been ordered by her Honours. According to the summary of facts in February, the accused went with his uncle and cousins to refill five containers with petrol in Saanapu Safata.
Upon arrival at the petrol station, the accused who was sitting at the back of a Dyna truck was playing with a gas lighter. His cousins were helping an employee refill the containers. The accused recklessly lit the gas lighter. As a result, the container caught on fire and the flames spread to one of the petrol dispensers and then to the other two petrol dispensers.
A part of the petrol station caught on fire. The accused’s uncle quickly drove his truck away and they left the petrol station.
According to the Pre-Sentence Report, the accused is 17 years old and has been in Samoa since 2018 living with his mother’s family in Siumu while his parents live in Australia.
Justice Tuala-Warren the family of the accused says they presented an ifoga to the victim which was accepted. However the victim says it was not an ifoga as such, but an apology.
A first offender, Justice Tuala-Warren says the defendant is hoping to return to Australia to complete his education.
Her honours noted the extent of the damage as in the letter from the victim. The financial damage is significant, and leaving the scene without assisting once the fire started is aggravating.
The gravity of the offending is reflected in the maximum penalty as set out by Parliament and that is 14 years imprisonment which is a high maximum penalty. This particular offending was reckless, in that the accused damaged by fire a manned gas station, which he ought to have known would pose a danger to life.
Defence lawyer Quentin Sauaga has submitted that if the accused is convicted, that conviction will jeopardise his future in being able to travel to Australia to complete his University studies.
A conviction is submitted will have consequences on his further University studies as well as future employment. The offending it is submitted was neither intentional nor premeditated.
She finds that the direct and indirect consequences of a conviction, in this case, are out of all proportion to the gravity of the offence.
“The accused is 17 years old. “He has his whole life ahead of him. A conviction for arson at this point of his life will define his chances in life, the chance to go to University and obtain a degree, the chance to find future employment.
“There will also be a stigma which will result from that conviction. I am not satisfied that that is something this 17 year old should live with.
“I ask that he bear in mind the financial loss to the victim. There is nothing preventing him from making amends when he is able to, by paying some money to the victim as he has suffered tremendous financial loss.
“The accused is discharged without conviction.”