14 Nov 2005

Death penalty waived in rare case of murder conviction in Tonga

7:32 am on 14 November 2005

Tonga's chief justice has decided not to impose the death penalty on the first convicted murderer on the main island of Tongatapu in more than 20 years.

Tevita Siale Vola, who's 27, was found guilty of the murdering Salesi Taufalele during a drunken fight earlier this year.

Sitting at the Supreme Court in Nuku'alofa, Chief Justice Robin Webster has ruled life imprisonment, and not the death penalty, is an appropriate punishment.

Chief Justice Webster said the Supreme Court's view was, that for those convicted of murder Tonga, life imprisonment was the rule and the death sentence an exception.

The judge said he did not find the offence was of an exceptionally depraved and heinous character, nor, on account of its design and the manner of its execution, a source of grave danger to society at large.

In passing sentence, Chief Justice Webster said that he would recommend that while in prison Vola should undergo courses in alcohol awareness and anger management.

He said if Vola's conduct in prison remained good he should be considered for parole, or release on license, after serving about 15 years.