Tonga to compensate for death of NZ prisoner
Tonga's government says it will pay compensation over the death of a New Zealander in a Nuku'alofa police cell.
The Tongan government has agreed to pay compensation to the family of the New Zealand police officer, Kali Fungavaka, who died after being assaulted while in police custody in 2012.
Mr Fungavaka, who was in Tonga for his father's funeral, had been arrested and was attacked in the Central Police station.
Leilani Momoisea reports.
During the trials brought after Mr Fungavaka's death, the Crown said policemen assaulted Mr Fungavaka in a series of attacks after he was first arrested outside a bar in Nuku'alofa. The crown said a civilian had also punched Mr Fungavaka in the face during an argument and he fell and hit his head on the cell's concrete floor. In 2014, two police officers were convicted of manslaughter and another of common assault, while a civilian was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm. A compensation agreement was reached last week between Mr Fungavaka's widow, Audra Watts, and the Crown. Auckland lawyer Frank Hogan, is acting on her behalf.
FRANK HOGAN: "We claimed that the actions on the part of the police force were degrading, and inhumane, they were malicious, outrageous, high-handed and unconstitutional. Now to its credit, the Tongan government acknowledged that each of those descriptions that I just outlined, was truthful."
He says he commends the Tongan government for fronting up to its responsibilities and agreeing to pay compensation to Mr Fungavaka's widow. Mr Hogan says the compensation amount is confidential, but it is satisfactory.
FRANK HOGAN: "She acknowledges that the children of Kali Fungavaka, they are the children of an earlier marriage. They have an entitlement to some of the monies. And she is going to voluntarily going to set up a trust or trust funds for some of those children. So yes, she obtains closure, it's been a long pathway for her."
As part of the package of settlement, the Supreme Court made an order declaring the actions of the Tongan policemen amounted to a breach of Kali Fungavaka's constitutional rights and his basic rights to life, liberty and freedom. Tonga's acting attorney general, Aminiasi Kefu, says he will also be making an apology, jointly with the Tongan police commissioner, on behalf of the government. He says the police have been in contact with Miss Watts assuring her of improvements made within the police force following Mr Fungavaka's death.
AMINIASI KEFU: "Mainly to the facilities, and also training. So we have reassured her that everything that we could possibly do is being taken by Tonga police and also the crown. Tonga police and also the Tongan government is taking this incident very seriously. It's very tragic that it's happened, but it's something that I also hope will improve policing in Tonga."
Aminiasi Kefu says he is pleased that an agreement has been reached that both sides feel is reasonable, despite the circumstances. He says the Tongan police are doing their best to ensure this type of incident doesn't occur again.
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