Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Home dental work leads to detention

Judge receives 500-strong petition from Pacific community supporting defendant

Sione Vailea says he is looking forward to moving on. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Sione Vailea says he is looking forward to moving on. Photo / Sarah Ivey

A man who carried out dental work from his Mangere home was yesterday handed four months' home detention.

Sione Heinave Vailea was sentenced in the Manukau District Court on charges of criminal nuisance, performing a restricted activity, forgery and possession of prescription medicines.

The 54-year-old - who has since moved from his home - carried out dental work including extractions, root canals, fillings and gold inlays over about nine years.

Vailea does not hold a New Zealand qualification, but had worked as a qualified dental therapist in Tonga for a number of years.

A summary of facts showed photos of unhygienic conditions and old equipment laid out on pieces of newspaper.

Speaking to the Herald after his sentencing, he said: "I'm looking forward to the future and just moving on from this."

At the sentencing, defence lawyer Harvey Duran presented a petition that had more than 500 signatures, mostly from members of the Tongan and wider Pacific community in South Auckland - backing Vailea.

Judge Grant Fraser acknowledged Vailea had contributed hugely to the community and was a respected man of the church. The judge also took into account an early guilty plea, his lack of previous convictions and that he had been trying to help people who otherwise could not afford dental treatment.

Crown prosecutor Sally Carter said the Ministry of Health wanted a sentence that would reflect the severity of the offending. She said the Manukau District Health Board had seen a number of Vailea's patients who had had to have repair work done.

Ms Carter said the DHB had estimated that if it were to track down other patients who had had to have repair work done, the cost to the DHB would amount to up to $100,000 - based on 300 people.

Tongan community leader and lawyer Joel Fotu, who knows Vailea, said some of the Tongans who turned up at the defendant's home had visited Middlemore Hospital with toothache at night but got fed up with the long queues and gone home.

- NZ Herald

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