Court allows killer to appeal judgment

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The Fiji Court of Appeal has allowed a man who was sentenced to life in prison to appeal the judgment that was delivered by the High Court.

Nazeem Ali had been indicted at the High Court in Lautoka with one count of murder of Susana Vakaloloma on May 7, 2016 at Yalalevu, Ba.

In his appeal, Mr Ali stated that he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea on October 15, 2010 and submitted a note to the trial judge to that effect.

“This episode had happened in the absence of the appellant’s trial counsel who had not turned up in court on that day or even on the following day,” stated Justice Chandana Prematilaka in his January 6 ruling.

“The trial counsel’s absence may have been because of the fact that the appellant was apparently reluctant to follow his advice though the appellant pleaded guilty on September 16, 2019 grudgingly and allegedly under duress (according to the appellant) but now wanted to withdraw the guilty plea.

“A change of plea from guilty to not guilty may be entertained at any time before sentence is passed.

“The reason/s why the trial judge rejected the appellant’s application to withdraw the plea of guilty is not given in the sentencing order. I think given the circumstances discussed above, this is a fit case to grant enlargement of time in the interest of justice to enable the full court to examine the full record to see the merits of the ground of appeal in the light of above principles of law.”

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