Councillor Yalu Sawia’s appeal in the Supreme Court against his conviction by the Magistrates’ Court has been dismissed.

Mr Sawia had initially been convicted for breach of a Family Protection Order, contrary to section 21 of the Family Protection Act.

The Supreme Court only reduced the end sentence from 10 months to six months imprisonment and would not allow a suspension of the sentence.

This reduction was made after the appeal against the sentence was allowed by Justice Viran Molisa Trief, taking into consideration the early guilty plea and Mr Sawia’s personal factors.

When handing the decision on July 8, Justice Trief back-dated the sentence to run from June 22, 2021 to take into account the two weeks and three days that Mr Sawia served in custody.

The Magistrates’ Court had sentenced Mr Sawia to 10 months imprisonment on March 1, 2021. The complaint in the case was Mrs Fabien Sawia, the wife of Port Vila City Councillor, Mr Yalu who had filed an urgent application for a Family Protection Order in Domestic Violence Case No. 2071 of 2020.

The Order was issued by the Magistrates’ Court on August 13, 2020.

On September 16, 2020 Mr Sawia attended a review hearing in the Magistrates’ Court. He told the Court that alcohol consumption caused him to be violent.

The Court ordered him to attend a custom meeting within 30 days and not alcohol for six months.

Mr Sawia failed to attend the review hearing on October 16, 2020.

The complainant told the Court that her husband continued to threaten her and used abusive word against her.

Mrs Sawia then issued a new complaint that Mr Sawia had continued to breach the order and wanted a criminal charge issued.

After the Magistrates’ Court sentenced Mr Sawia to 10 months imprisonment, on March 8, 2021 Mrs Sawia wrote that she was withdrawing her September 2020 complaint letter.

The Supreme Court stated that even though the complaint had retracted her complaint to the conviction and sentence, that does not automatically result in the criminal proceedings being discontinued.

“That is a decision solely for the Public Prosecutor or if the Court considered that insufficient evidence existed, the Court could have dismissed the charge.

“In any case, there was no withdrawal of the complaint prior to the conviction and sentence,” Justice Trief stated in her findings.

The Supreme Court, when reducing the sentence set by the Magistrates’ Court, also took into consideration a reconciliation ceremony performed and Mr Sawia’s contribution to his community at Freshwota and his family.