Jail time for Usino Bundi leaders quashed

The Supreme Court has quashed a total of 15 months jail time that was given to Usino-Bundi MP Anthon Yagama and Madang businessman Peter Yama in 2014 for contempt of court.

In two separate Supreme Court appeals that were filed by Yagama and Yama against their conviction and sentence, two different Supreme Court bench upheld their appeal, quashing the sentence on Tuesday.

On 31 January 2014, Justice David Cannings of the Madang National Court sentenced Yagama to nine months in prison while Yama was given six months for contempt of court after they failed to control their supporters who incited violence in the precinct of the Madang National court on 3 September 2013.

Justice Cannings was dealing with an election petition concerning the result of the 2012 general election for the Usino-Bundi Open seat, challenged by Yama when the incident took place around 11:30am.

Yagama was convicted for failing to take adequate steps to prevent his supporters from intimidating, threatening and inciting physical violence against the petitioner (Yama) and his supporters.

He was also found guilty for failing to prevent his supporters and associates from disturbing the peace of the precincts of the National Court.

Justice Cannings on 31 January 2014 said as a leader he should have ensured before the day of hearing that his supporters did not come to court with painted faces, shouting war cries and armed with weapons.

The court heard that supporters of Yagama confronted Yama and his lawyer as they were driving out, threatening them with weapons and abusive language.

Yama was also charged with contempt in relation to the same incident.

The court heard Yama had returned that day and threatened Ramu police officers that he would shoot them with high-powered guns because they did not intervene and stop Yagama’s supporters.

Justice Cannings said his actions amounted to interference and harassment of police officers, and aggressive and inflammatory conduct that was likely to interfere in the due administration of justice.

They were sentence to a total of 15 months in Beon however filed separate appeals against their conviction and sentence.

Justice Panuel Mogish handed down the decision at 3:30pm yesterday in the appeal Yagama filed.

The bench by majority was of the view that there was no evidence put before the National Court in Madang that Yagama failed to control the behaviour of his supporters as he was in court.

Justice Mogish said each person should be held accountable for their action.

In a separate Supreme Court bench consisting of Deputy Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika, Justice Collin Makail and Justice Terence Higgins yesterday, they also agreed with grounds raised by Yama, quashing his conviction and sentence.

Yama who was in court to receive the decision said he was satisfied with the ruling.

Yagama however was not in court despite attempts by his lawyer to inform him of the case.  

Sally Pokiton