A man convicted of raping his niece has been jailed for 16 years.
The sentencing for Pulemau Sione was handed down by Supreme Court Justice, Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala.
Rexona Titi, of the Attorney General’s Office, prosecuted the case while lawyer, Afamasaga Michael Soonalole represented the defendant.
Justice Tafaoimalo issued a suppression order prohibiting the publication of the name of the victim and any details that might identify her.
However, the suppression order does not relate to the defendant. According to the evidence, the accused travelled to Samoa from Auckland, New Zealand, on 21 October 2017.
Sione is the eldest brother of the victim’s mother. According to evidence heard before the Court during the trial, Sione’s second day at his family, sometime in the evening, he consumed some beer at the same time the mother of the victim went to bingo. The victim and her younger cousins set dinner for the accused and then went to their room. At some point during the night, Sione went into the victim’s room where she was sleeping.
“He blocked her mouth with his hand, told her not to tell anyone and proceeded to force himself onto her and forcibly had sex with her despite her protestations.”
“Once done, he said to her not to say anything to anyone in their family, he would kill her, he would shoot her and chase her and her mother from his family.”
“When the accused left the room, the victim then called her mother and sister numerous times but no one answered.”
“She then messaged her intended adoptive mother in New Zealand who called the Police in Samoa.”
“When the Police arrived, the victim had locked herself in her room and refused to open the door.”
“She was crying and was afraid to come out. As it was revealed from the evidence, she was contemplating suicide.”
“The Police officers, who attended the call out, managed to get the victim out of the room and took her with them. The accused remained in bed in the sitting room.”
The accused is 68 years old, a father and has lived in New Zealand since his early 20’s.
“He was in Samoa visiting family when this offending occurred.” “His youngest sister, who is the mother of the victim, remains supportive of her eldest brother -the accused.”
“She says he has always supported their family and contributed to family faalavelave without fail.”
“The Methodist Minister of Levi Saleimoa has written in support of the accused. He says the accused contributes to his family and church when he is in Samoa, and that he is kind and hard working.”
Justice Tafaoimalo noted that Sione maintains his innocence to probation.
During the trial, the victim visibly shaken during her testimony and she informed the Court contemplating suicide because of what the accused had done to her.
“This indicates the desolation felt by the victim.”
“In the pre-sentence report, it says that the victim was adopted by an aunty in New Zealand and she currently lives in N.Z.”
The aggravating features of this offending are firstly, the age of the victim.
“She was 18 years old at the time of the offending and the age difference of 49 years is also an aggravating factor.”
“The accused is an adult, with immense life experience as opposed to this young victim of 18 years old.”
“Regarding vulnerability of the victim, the young age of the victim and the age difference between the victim and the accused made her vulnerable to the accused.”
“It is also aggravating that the accused is related to the victim, being her uncle, her mother’s eldest brother and the sao of their family.”
“The whole family at Levi Saleimoa were dependent on the accused for money, cars and shelter.”
“He took advantage of that position of authority and trust in relation to the victim. The magnitude of the breach of relationship of trust between the victim and the accused is an aggravating factor.”
“He had just arrived from New Zealand the day before and the family had prepared for his arrival given that he was highly respected and loved by the family.”
“He held a special position of authority and trust in relation to all family members, which he abused when he raped the victim.”
“This position of authority, respect and trust held by the accused also makes the victim particularly vulnerable as she and her whole family were at that time financially dependent on and obedient to the accused.”
Furthermore, Justice Tafaoimalo noted that it is aggravating that the accused threatened the victim after raping her.
“He threatened to kill her, shoot her and remove her family from their home in Levi Saleimoa. Threats to kill are acts of threatened violence.”
Justice Tafaoimalo also pointed out the need to hold the accused accountable for the harm done to the victim, to promote in him a sense of responsibility for, and an acknowledgment of that harm, and to provide for the interests of the victim who was young, vulnerable and defenseless at the time.
“There is also an overriding need to deter the accused and others from committing the same or similar offences and to protect the community from the accused.”
“This protection is particularly important for young persons. It is of major concern to the Court that this offending occurred within the sanctuary of a home, committed by a family member on whom this young victim was dependent.”
“This rape occurred in a place where this young person should be protected and feel protected, her own home. This type of sexual offending on young persons, whether it occurs within a family or outside of the family, will not be tolerated by the Court and the Court will impose stern penalties on those who commit this type of offending.”
“This type of sexual offending within the family, which has become so visible in the Courts as of late, runs contrary to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Samoa is a party.”
“The preamble to that Convention so far as it is relevant provides: recalling that in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has proclaimed that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance, convinced that the family as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all its members and particularly children should be afforded the necessary protection and assistance so that it can fully assume its responsibilities within the community.”
“Recognizing that the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.”
“Considering that the child should be fully prepared to live an individual life in society, and brought up in the spirit of the ideals proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, and in particular in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity.”