Three police officers, Joe Toto, Ralph Lele and Maual Kalontas, were given suspended sentences after pleading guilty to intentional assault causing temporary injury to a man from Malatoi village at Big Bay area on Santo during an operation in 2020.

Two other officers, Michel Kalo and Allan Konmawi, also pleaded guilty to malicious damage to property contrary to the Penal Code [CAP 135].

Corporal Toto assaulted a complainant by hitting her with a dry coconut leaf branch.

She was examined and her injuries reported include headache and slight dizziness, blunt trauma to head, slight swelling on head, slight haematoma on both eyes, pain on neck, slight swelling on both forearms and haematoma on lower lumbar region.

The complainant was at her house when the police officers arrived and asked if she knew Chief John Pune, one of the accused person they were investigating for assault, threats and arson. She denied that it was his house and the corporal dragged her to the coconut plantation and assaulted her.

When the officers then returned to Luganville, they were informed of further reports of threats. A group of officers returned to Mataloi village to take statements and arrest suspects.

They damaged properties and assaulted residents. One of the residents, a pastor, sustained bleeding on his head after being hit on the head and on the chest by Constable Lele. He was assaulted while handcuffed.

Constable Kalontas slapped Mr. Pune and punched him in the ribs after arresting him at Mataloi Bible School.

Under the Penal Code, intentional assault causing temporary injury has a 5 years’ imprisonment and VT5, 000 fine or 1 year imprisonment or both for malicious damage to property.

Toto was given a sentence start point of 18 months’ imprisonment, 2 years’ imprisonment for Lele, 12 months for Kalontas, Kalo and Konmawi 6 month’s imprisonment.

All received a sentence reduction by 25% due to their guilty pleas and a further 25% for personal factors, such as being remorseful and having no previous convictions.

They all are hard-working officers and have performed custom reconciliation ceremonies with the Tabwemasana Council of Chiefs and complainants involving cash, pieces of iron roofing, pig, kava, mats and local food crops.

In the verdict dated last Friday, Supreme Court Judge Viran Molisa Trief warned the officers they will be taken into custody if they are convicted of any offence within the next one year period.

They were sentenced to complete 60 hours of community work.