Councilor Sawia escorted by Correctional Officers to Magistrate Court yesterday. Photo: Terence Malapa

The Magistrate Court has sentenced Port Vila City Council’s elected councillor, Yalu Sawia, to 10 months imprisonment after he breached a domestic violence order.

The sentence was handed down by Chief Magistrate Anna Laloyer yesterday.

Magistrate Laloyer ruled that the defendant had breached a Family Protection Order, contrary to section 21 of the Family Protection Act.

This order came about after Councillor Yalu assaulted his wife on October 16 last year.

Section 21 of the Family Protection Act states; (1) “A person who breaches a family protection order is guilty of an offence punishable on conviction by a term of imprisonment not exceeding 2 years or a fine not exceeding 50,000 Vatu, or both”.

Magistrate Laloyer stated during her ruling, “Since you had paid your fine, your suspended sentence and your current sentence is for 1 year but in consideration of your guilty plea, the court is sentencing you to 10 months imprisonment”.

The Family Protection Act gives this definition of what amounts to domestic violence: “(1) A person commits an act of domestic violence if he or she intentionally does any of the following acts against a member of his or her family: (a) assaults the family member (whether or not there is evidence of a physical injury).”

Another hearing is set for Wednesday March 3 at 2pm for the defendant to appear in court to enter plea for another criminal offence with the same claimant.

Charges laid against the defendant are domestic and intentional assault which occurred last Friday. Councillor Sawia was then remanded in the Correctional Centre until yesterday morning when he appeared in Court for his sentencing.

The councillor has 14 days to appeal his sentence and is likely to lose his seat if any appeal submitted does not succeed.