18 Apr 2020

Fiji magistrate's ruling on curfew breakers set aside

12:35 pm on 18 April 2020

A high court judge in Fiji has set aside a magistrate's ruling to acquit three people charged with breaching the Covid-19 nationwide curfew.

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Photo: 123RF

On Thursday, Nadi Magistrate Siromi Turaga ruled that under the Public Health Act, the Prime Minister did not have the powers to order the arrests but the Health Minister did.

Mr Turaga said the State had prosecuted the accused on a non-existent law and therefore the charges were null and void.

But Justice Vincent Perera said Mr Turaga should have allowed the prosecution to amend the charge by "deleting Prime Minister and include the Minister of Health" as the curfew orders were approved by the Health Minister.

Earlier, Fiji's chief prosecutor said the State would appeal the magistrate's decision and the government referred the matter to the High Court.

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde, said Mr Turaga had "made an error of law".

The case has been adjourned to Tuesday.

Legal consultant arrested

Meanwhile a legal consultant has been charged with malicious acts relating to the Public Order Act.

Police said Meline Buadromo had claimed on social media that police were responsible for the death of a remand prisoner.

Police said the man died while being transferred to hospital from the corrections facility.

Hundreds of people were arrested this week for breaching the Covid-19 nationwide curfew.

Including an incident where a man was allegedly beaten to death on Thursday during a social gathering on Vanua Levu.

Police said they were concerned pleas to the public to adhere to the curfew restrictions were "falling on deaf ears."

Since the curfew came into effect on 30 March, police said more than 1500 people had been arrested.