A WOMAN of dual Papua New Guinean and Australian citizenship found guilty by the National Court of murdering her lover, British yachtsman John Hulse, was yesterday set free by the Supreme Court in Port Moresby.
According to Post-Courier report, Taita Pritchard, who was brought to the Waigani Court House from Bomana jail, broke down in tears when the court told her she was acquitted of the murder verdict and the 30-years prison term handed by Deputy Chief Justice Sir Gibbs Salika at the National Court.
She was convicted on a charge of willful murder in February along with her cousin James Paru, a former soldier. Paru received the same prison term.
She then filed this appeal alleging the evidence used to convict her was inadmissible and that she was denied an allocutus.
The bench comprising Justices Les Gavara-Nanu, Derek Hartshorn and Terence Higgins acquitted Pritchard on grounds that the evidence used to convict her were inadmissible and she was never administered an allocutus. The evidence in question is a confessional statement by Paru.
An allocutus is a formal statement made to court by the defendant who has been found guilty prior to being sentenced.
It is compulsory and it allows the defendant to explain why the sentence should be lenient.
In its ruling the bench said the decision was reached by Sir Gibbs from the confessional statement “…. it has no evidentiary value of weight against the appellant (Pritchard).”
The court said this is because Paru’s statement was never corroborated.
It further stated, “Even if such evidence (Paru’s statement) had been in admissible form, the trial judge would have needed to warn himself that such evidence should not be used against an accused unless corroborated.”
In terms of being denied allocutus, the prosecution agreed that Pritchard was not administered any submission on sentence and conceded to Pritchard’s appeal for sentencing be suspended.