Lawyers warn media after Tongan discharged

02:21, Nov 03 2010

Three Auckland lawyers have issued a warning to the media over how they report the way in which a Tongan law lord has been discharged from criminal charges linked to the sinking of the ferry Princess Ashika.

Seventy two people died in August last year when the 37-year-old ship operated by the state owned Shipping Corporation of Polynesia (SCP) sank north of Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa.

A Royal Commission of Inquiry termed it a “scandalous maritime disaster” and accused SCP secretary Ramsay Dalgety – also known as Lord Dalgety – of not being a “fit and proper person” to run the company and accused him of being highly evasive.

Dalgety, a Scotsman, was arrested on a charge of perjury while other also arrest included the company’s New Zealand CEO John Jonesse who faces manslaughter charges.

Dalgety challenged the arrest in the Supreme Court who on Monday quashed the indictments against him. Justice Robert Shuster ruled that the indictments had needed to be signed and dated by the prosecutor and were invalid because they had not been.

Dalgety, who was made a “law lord” by King George V, was represented by Auckland lawyers Charl Hirschfeld (ed: Charl), Tavake Barron Afeaki and Kahungunu Barron-Afeaki who issued a statement this morning.

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“Defence counsel request that the media exercise responsible and due care in reporting this matter,” they said.

The three said every person was entitled to fair and balanced reporting.

“The indictment for perjury against Lord Dalgety has been quashed by the Supreme Court,” the three said.

“This means the indictment has been (in layperson terms) dismissed or discharged.”

The three say it was untrue to describe Dalgety’s discharge as being achieved on a technicality.

They say the Tongan prosecution service had failed to do their job property in laying the charges in the first place.

“An indictment must be in proper form and accurately lay out the reason(s) for the charge to a very high standard of proof,” the three Auckland lawyers say.

“The Crown failed to do so.”

The three say there was “never sufficient basis to have ever laid this charge against Lord Dalgety”.

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