Violent offending is the second highest crime committed by youths in Samoa.
Senior District Court and Youth Court Judge, Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma revealed this during his presentation at the “Empowering the Family Unit to Stop Violence” conference at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel this week.
“According to 2017 data provided by probation services, 32 young offenders appeared in court for property offenses, 27 appeared for crimes against a person (assault, grievous bodily harm), 3 appeared for traffic-related matters, 2 appeared for narcotics offenses and 1 appeared for a sexual crime,” he said.
“Some of these property offences involve the element of violence for example, burglary.”
In his experience as a Youth Court judge, he has seen an increasing trend of youth offenders over the years.
“Young offenders are predominated by males and according to probation data, more than 90 percent of young offenders this year are males and the remaining are females.
“And most of them are from the age range of 6 to 15 years, with most being school dropouts.”
Judge Ameperosa also mentioned the root cause of young people committing crimes.
“First is alcohol, second there is a break down in the family unit and obviously the lack of parental guidance.
“There is the impact of low income families as well and a significant factor is the access young people have to mobile phones, internet and social media.
“Access to pornography is one contributing factor to the increase of sexual crimes,” he added.
In sentencing youth offenders, the law requires the rehabilitation and integration of young offenders into the community.
“In June 2016 to 2017, probation data showed that 70 percent were discharged without conviction, 25 percent were imposed sentences of supervision and community work and 5 percent were imposed imprisonment terms.”
A youth at the conference raised her concerns over movies shown on television.
“There are violent movies shown on television and it is sad to see that some youths are being used to promote alcohol produced by various companies in the country.
“Youth nowadays have easy access to the internet which allows them to see unwanted websites.”
Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Court, Papali’i John Taimalelagi Afele said: “There is a division within the Ministry called the Censor Committee who look at movies shown on television to see if they are appropriate and should be shown.”
The Youth Court was formally established under the 2007 Young Offenders legislation. It’s focused on providing rehabilitation programmes for young offenders.