A Suva magistrates court handed down a range of penalties to Tomasi Bainivalu today for a drunk driving offense, including a fine, a driving disqualification, and the surrender of his driver’s license.
This sentencing followed Bainivalu’s guilty plea to a charge of drunk driving, with the possibility of avoiding a criminal conviction if he pays a $300 fine within 14 days.
Resident Magistrate Waleen George, presiding over the case, ordered Bainivalu to make the fine payment within the specified time frame or face a 30-day imprisonment. He was immediately disqualified from driving or obtaining a driver’s license for 90 days, with this disqualification set to expire on January 30, 2024. Bainivalu was also required to surrender all driver’s licenses in his possession to the Suva Magistrates Court. In the event of the fine payment, the court would invoke section 15(1)(f) of the Sentencing and Penalties Act 2009 to discharge Bainivalu without recording a conviction.
The court’s decision to consider the conditional discharge took into account several factors detailed in court documents. These factors included Bainivalu’s nearly three-decade-long service to the State and the acknowledgment that his offense was a result of poor judgment, leading to a minor alcohol level exceeding the legal limit. It also considered Bainivalu’s plea for mercy after his initial guilty plea and also recognised that a conviction could potentially tarnish Bainivalu’s reputation and impact his career. The court before sentencing him, considered sections 4(1), 4(2), 15 and 16 of the Sentencing and Penalties Act 2009. It also cited the line from Enlightenment poet Alexander Pope (1711): “to err is human, to forgive is divine.”
Court documents indicate that on the evening of June 16 this year, Bainivalu failed a random breathalyser test along Brown Street, with his blood alcohol concentration exceeding the prescribed limit. He was charged with a single count of Driving a Motor Vehicle With an Excess of Alcohol in the Blood.