3 Nov 2010

Warning that end to Tonga perjury case may fuel tensions

3:44 pm on 3 November 2010

A Tongan newspaper publisher, Kalafi Moala, says a controversial decision to quash a court case involving one of the principals in the Princess Ashika tragedy could lead to a lot of tension.

Ramsay Robertson Dalgety, or Lord Dalgety, who was secretary of the company which had operated the ferry, had faced a perjury charge in relation to evidence given at the inquiry into the disaster.

But Justice Robert Shuster in the Supreme Court quashed it on the grounds the indictment wasn't properly signed and dated - something the Solicitor General told the court had not previously been a legal requirement.

Mr Moala says it should have been tried on its merits but to be thrown out on a technicality is ridiculous

"It is a sad case because I think there were a lot of people in Tonga waiting to see what the outcome would be and to have an outcome like this, based on a technicality, is unacceptable."

Kalafi Moala says Lord Dalgety should be charged again and the case retried, although he points out that the Crown is planning to appeal the decision and that Justice Shuster has lost a number of cases on appeal.