The decision of the court to dismiss the appeal did not go down well with family members of the former commissioner, who wept openly in the court room, expressing their disappointment after the decision.
Two of the three judges sitting in a Supreme Court bench today ruled by majority, to dismiss his appeal, saying the trial judge did not make any error in convicting him for contempt of court and imposing a sentence of seven months in prison.
On May 15, 2014, Kulunga was found guilty of contempt for failing to implement court orders of October 1, 2012, re-instating former top cop, Geoffrey Vaki, after the court ruled that the Constabulary erred in dismissing Vaki from the force.
On June 13, 2014 he was given a concurrent sentence of seven months for all three counts of contempt.
Kulunga was granted K10,000 bail in a special night sitting of the Supreme Court, hours after being sentenced to seven months in prison. He filed an appeal which was dismissed today.
The appeal on conviction was on grounds that there was no finding to show he acted willfully, intentionally and deliberately in relation to the alleged non-compliance with the order. The ground against sentence was that the usual sentencing pattern was ignored and alternatives to imprisonment were not considered.
Justice Panuel Mogish went in favour of Kulunga’s appeal, quashing the sentence because he was of the view that Kulunga was a victim of incompetent legal advice and time was not on his side to act within the 14 days to comply with two of the orders.
He said Kulunga’s lawyers could have sought an extension of time to enable him to fully comply with the orders but nothing of that sort happened.
“He not only sought to rely on a defective investigation report to terminate the appointment of Mr Vaki as deputry Commissioner Police Operations but breached various provisions of section 25 of the Police Act,” Justice Mogish said.
But Justices Collin Makail and Goodwin Poole ruled otherwise dismissing the appeal against sentencing and confirmed the orders of sentence imposed by the National Court.
“In this case we are unable to point to any error in the exercise of the learned judge’s discretion sufficient to indicate the discretion miscarried. We may not have arrived at the same conclusion, but that does not justify us intervening,” Justice Poole said.
(Loop PNG file picture of Kulunga and supporters outside the Waigani Court house on the evening of June 13, 2014 after he was granted bail by the Supreme Court at K10,000. Picture by Cedric Patjole.)