Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has instructed Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, to proceed with the necessary groundwork to set up a Sex Offenders Register.
The instruction comes amidst growing concerns about repeated sex offenders and sexual predators roaming the streets– including sex offenders sent back to Samoa from overseas.
In an email to the Sunday Samoan, Lemalu confirmed the plan.
“I can confirm that this office is now working with the Ministry of Police with reference to the work of the Returnees Trust to finalise a Legislation as to a Sexual Offenders Register for Samoa,” he said.
“The work and report of the Samoa Law Reform office has reached this office and that is the overall basis of this task."
“On the instructions of the Hon P.M. we are aiming to table a Bill for consideration of the Cabinet with a view for it to be tabled as soon as is practicable before Parliament.”
Lemalu said people with a history of sexual convictions would be targeted.
“The Legislation will create mandatory requirements for those with previous convictions of sexual offending to be registered and therefore monitored as to their current whereabouts in order to attempt to ensure public safety while not being unmindful of the need to promote rehabilitation where at all possible,” Lemalu said.
“The Act will have a retrospective element to cover past offenders already in the community when it is enacted."
“It will be new to Samoa so we in government enforcement will need to work together to work through how best to implement it."
“I am confident I can work with the Acting Police Commissioner and I am personally mindful of Judicial awareness as per Justice Nelson's comments as far back as 2013. '
“We will be committed to making this work for our community at large. The Register will be confidential to enforcement agencies unless legally required to disclose for safety issues that may arise.”
The call for a Sex Offenders Register is not new. It was sparked by Justice Vui Clarence Nelson who became increasingly concerned about the presence of sex offenders in the community.
Back in 2015 for example, Justice Vui revived the call to clamp down on the number of sex offenders – including criminals sent back from other countries - roaming freely around Samoa.
Comparing them to a pack of wolves in a sheep’s den, Justice Vui made the point when he jailed a father found guilty of 13 counts of rape of his biological daughter for 21 years.
The girl, whom he ended up impregnating, was 15 years old at the time of the offences. The identity of the victim has been suppressed while the defendant is referred to as VL.
The Court heard that VL was convicted and imprisoned in New Zealand in 2009 for indecently assaulting a female between the age of 12 and 16 years.
He was deported from that jurisdiction after serving his sentence, in the company of two New Zealand police officers. Back in Samoa, the Court was told that the defendant treated his daughter like his wife.
What’s more, he imprisoned her in her own home.
“He would forbid her going outside the house. He would beat her when he returned from work and found her outside the house for whatever reason,” Justice Vui’s ruling said.
“Her brother’s evidence was sometimes these beatings would produce blood (e masa’a le toto o lo'u tuafafinepe a fasi).'
The complainant was not even allowed, according to her, to watch TV. The defendant seems to be what is referred to in common parlance as a ‘control freak’. Sounds to me like he kept his daughter a virtual prisoner in her own home.”
Justice Vui said the defendant’s behavior was sick.
"This defendant is a man with no conscience who almost beat his teenage son, the brother of the complainant, when the boy confronted him about his behavior,” Justice Vui said.
What’s worse, when he was charged, he pleaded not guilty, which necessitated the complainant and her brother, his very own children, to relive the harrowing experience of a public hearing before a court room full of strangers.
“I find it astounding how a convicted sex offender deported from an overseas jurisdiction because of his offending, considered dangerous enough to warrant being accompanied to Samoa not by one but two police officers, can then be permitted to live freely and anonymously in our community with no restriction whatever. With nothing in place to prevent possible reoffending."
“This case once again highlights the need for a Sex Offenders Register for registration of serious sex offenders. So that such offenders can be supervised and monitored post-release from prison."
“Irrespective of whether they are convicted and imprisoned in Samoa or elsewhere. It seems to be a normal practice now that sex offenders convicted in overseas jurisdictions are being returned to Samoa upon expiry of their sentences."
“Then are released back into an unsuspecting community which is blissfully ignorant of the criminal past of these people who walk and live among them. This is the proverbial insertion of the wolf into the sheep’s den.”