Melbourne teen murder accused granted bail

·2-min read

One of 11 people charged with murdering 15-year-old Solomone Taufeulungaki in the car park of a Melbourne shopping centre has been granted bail.

Solomone died after being attacked with knives and baseball bats in an alleged gang attack outside the Brimbank shopping centre on the night of June 16, 2020.

One of the accused, Taataa Tafa, 21, appeared via videolink in the Victorian Supreme Court on Tuesday and was granted bail in his second attempt at pre-trial release.

Justice Paul Coghlan found that long delays in running a large trial, combined with potential weaknesses in the prosecution case, constituted exceptional circumstances for Tafa, which would allow for his release on strict conditions.

"The difficulty is that this case is a long way away from resolution, and to keep a young person on remand is not justified," he said.

Tafa has previously pleaded not guilty to four charges including violent disorder, affray and murder.

He's one of two men charged over Solomone's killing, along with nine boys aged between 13 and 17.

Justice Coghlan noted that while most of Tafa's co-accused had already been granted bail, three of them had already been sent back into custody.

A family friend and a youth worker both gave evidence that they would support the accused if he was released.

The court heard evidence from a friend of Tafa's father, who said she would let the alleged killer live with her family, even though she was aware he had gang links and they had never met face-to-face.

When prosecution lawyer Erik Dober asked if she was concerned Tafa might not follow her rules, she replied that she was "very strict".

Tafa's lawyer Daniel Sala acknowledged there was an element of risk to the bail arrangements, but said it would be a "test" for his client, whose behaviour would only become entrenched if he remained in custody.

Justice Coghlan said he was "not all that thrilled" by plans for Tafa to work as an arborist, and said the housing arrangements were unsustainable for the family offering their house.

"Even though he's the applicant, he's not the centre of the universe," Justice Coghlan said, repeating that he was not convinced Tafa would behave if released.

"I will not hesitate to revoke your bail in a heartbeat," he warned.

Tafa will be subject to a curfew and will have to undergo drug and alcohol testing.

He will return to court at a later date.

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