One of the 15 houses burnt

The Supreme Court has granted to 15 claimants a total sum of Vt51 million for damages after their houses and other properties were burnt and damaged defendants from the same area.

The verdict was handed down on July 22 and Enforcement Conference was set for August 31 with enforcement of the case currently ongoing.

Daily Post understands no appeal was lodged by the defendants.

The arson incident occurred on Tanna in 2016 when the defendants used fuel to burn down 15 houses belonging to the claimants.

The Claimants in the case are Henry Iouiou, Tom Rauhu, Simon Jifly, Kolwin Jimmy, Tangap Willie, Steven Jimmy, Moio Ben, David Fiwi, Johnny Nawanapik, Moia Ben, Jimmy Randy, Andony Iouiou, Numanse Wiken, Pierre Willie and Flora Willie.

The Defendants Timothy Pota, Amos Charlie, Amos Willie Nakou Nikelsen Charlie, Willie Saute, Iaukas Nauam, Iamak Imaim Nasse, Kenethy Bredy, Willam Iaham, Tom Naklinpin, Isaac Tom, Keing Tarik, Judge Iawantak, Ori Joe Ialu, Ruben Musa Iapakel, Mike Nakou, Radley Tom, Brian Jimmy and Samule Iawantak.

The claimants had claim general damages jointly and severally against all 22 defendants for a total sum of Vt51,412,560.

The highest amount claimed by one of the claimants is Vt26 million and claim amounts ranged individually from that highest to Vt15 million, Vt1 million, Vt500,000 and Vt60,000 being the lowest.

The Supreme Court found that on February 16, 2016 all the defendants gathered together and used fuel to burn down 15 houses of the claimants.

As a result, the claimants lost their homes and all personal belongings such as clothes, kitchen utensils, money and other materials.

Prosecution laid charges of unlawful assembly and arson against all 21 defendants in a separate criminal case No. 889 of 2016.

The Court convicted the defendants on 20 October 2016 and sentenced them to various terms of imprisonments with suspension of sentences for some, and community work with supervision for some of them.

All defendants were served but none of them made any attempts to file any responses and or defences, despite directions issued by the Court on 26 November 2019.

Evidence provided by claimants include photos of burnt houses and these evidences were not challenged.

The court was satisfied with the evidence provided by claimants on the balance of probabilities and found the case in their favour.

In the original claim the Court awarded only Vt340,000 as total amount of damages to the 15 claimants on 10 July 2019. The defendants did not make an attempt to pay the amount or perform a custom ceremony to reconcile.

The claimants appealed the decision successfully and the Court of Appeal remitted the case back for reassessment of damages.

“In light of the evidence in support of the claims by claimants and for the fact those statements are not challenged or rebutted in any way, the Court comes to the conclusion the claimants must have judgment for the full amount of their claims,” Justice Oliver Saksak concluded in his decision after the case was remitted by the Court of Appeal.

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