Unclear law puts juvenile’s murder sentencing on hold

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By TREVOR WAHUNE
A JUDGE has asked lawyers to do some research on the Juvenile Act after finding there was no maximum penalty for juveniles guilty of manslaughter.
Justice Panuel Mogish, pictured, advised lawyers Nathan Hukula, from the Office of the Public Solicitor, and Andrew Kaipu, from the Office of the Public Prosecutor, at the Bomana National Court yesterday after finding that the Juvenile Act protected juveniles from a life sentence, which was the maximum penalty for manslaughter, but did not state what was the maximum penalty for juveniles.
Justice Mogish adjourned the sentencing of Charlee Joe, 17, from Mekeo in Central, to May 6 to allow time for the lawyers and himself to research the maximum penalty for juveniles involved in manslaughter cases. Joe pleaded guilty of killing a man at Mekeo in 2017 during a basketball match, where the victim had attacked him during the game, and in retaliation, Joe took a tree branch and hit the victim’s head with it. That was the cause of death.
“I think there is a gap in the way the law protects juveniles from sentences of manslaughter,” the judge said.
“There must be a prescribed penalty. If discretion was given to a judge, by looking at the guidelines of judgments, a penalty of between 10 and 12 years would be suitable for a maximum penalty in a worst-case scenario.”
Justice Mogish said there was a similar case that previously appeared in the Supreme Court that dealt with such a matter, and advised both lawyers to find it and see if there was anything the court could apply.
“I cannot go further without clarity.”
Justice Mogish told Joe: “Under the criminal law, I should sentence you to life imprisonment.
“But the Juvenile Act protects juveniles, these are children between 10 and 18 years old. For juveniles guilty of manslaughter, this law does not apply to them.”
Justice Mogish said if the lawyers could not come up with an interpretation, then they should file a Supreme Court reference to allow the Supreme Court to interpret the Juvenile Act.
“If the Supreme Court’s interpretation finds no prescribed penalties, then I am afraid we will have to wait for this to be tabled in parliament to pass a law on that before we can hand down a decision on sentence.”

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