A 61-year-old man has been sentenced to 13 years jail for raping a 14-year-old girl who was under his care.
The victim is the defendant’s brother’s granddaughter.
In handing down the sentence last week Friday, Justice Vui said: “This offence occurred in the compliance of a family home, a place where children are supposed to feel loved and protected from such behaviour.”
Tavu’i Sailasa was found guilty by a panel of assessors over the charges of rape, sexual connection with a girl under 16 years old and indecent assault.
A suppression order was issued for the sake of the victim and it extended to her village.
The prosecution was led by Vaisala Afoa of the Attorney General’s Office, the Registrar was Mane Su’a and the defense counsel was Pa’u Tafaogalupe Mulitalo.
According to the police summary of facts, the incident occurred before Christmas in 2016 when the defendant was 61 years old and the victim was 14.
The complainant had been under the defendant’s care for a number of years because her parents had separated and her mother had remarried.
After the trial, defense counsel filed an application for a re-hearing based on what he said was new evidence.
He also indicated the complainant admitted to him that she lied on oath during the trial.
Justice Vui said this was a serious matter, however the allegation was dismissed.
“On the morning in question, a few days before Christmas in 2016, the defendant’s son and the victim were in the outside kitchen doing fa’apa’u koko,” said Justice Vui.
“The son was engaged in fa’apa’u koko while the defendant was putting on the fire and doing some other chores.
“At one stage, the son went to the toilet and the defendant came on the scene.
“The toilet is in a separate structure and a bit far away from the kitchen.
“The defendant’s wife had gone to the hospital and the other children in the family, were playing inside the main house.”
According to the victim, the defendant approached her at the outside kitchen and told her to remove her clothes but she refused.
The defendant, however, went ahead and raped her.
She told the court that her uncle, who was an eye witness, was passing by the family property at the time of the incident.
He (her uncle) told the court that he saw the defendant kiss the victim and sexually harass her.
He also said while the defendant was raping the girl, he took a rock and threw it on the apa of the kitchen and the defendant immediately stopped.
Justice Vui said this was strong evidence in support of the victim’s testimony.
“The defendant vehemently died all the allegations against him and he even told the probation officer that he is innocent.
“However he accepted the fact that the uncle threw a rock at the kitchen but explained that it was for the purpose of attracting his attention because the uncle was gay and that he wanted to have sex with him but the assessors did not believe this.”
According to the victim’s impact report, she told the defendant’s wife and his son what had happened to her, but in response, the wife beat her up.
In reading out the aggravating features, Justice Vui took into account the incident occurred at home.
“There was a breach of trust because the defendant was the head of the household while the victim was a 14-year-old girl under his care,” said Justice Vui.
“In her V.I.R. she said she looked up to the defendant as her father in the absence of her own biological father.
“We are all aware that the head of any Samoan family household is a unique position of cultural and financial power and has much sway on all family members and the affairs of family members.
“In raping this young girl, Tavu’i breached that trust.
“Consideration is also given to the vulnerability of the complainant because she’s 14 years old and some 40 years in between the victim and the defendant.
“He waited for the complainant to be alone and his wife was absent,” said Justice Vui.
“If the uncle hadn’t thrown a rock on the apa, the rape would’ve carried on.”
In sentencing the defendant Justice Vui said the starting point was 15 years and normal deductions were made which left 13 years.
“You have been convicted and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment for the charge of rape, for the charge of sexual connection; you are convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment and for the charge of indecent assault; you have been convicted and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.
All of this are to be served concurrently.”