Rapist gets 15 years

By Deidre Tautua-Fanene ,

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JAIL: Vitale Iakopo saying goodbye to his wife yesterday after receiving a 15 year sentence for raping his wife’s younger sisters.

JAIL: Vitale Iakopo saying goodbye to his wife yesterday after receiving a 15 year sentence for raping his wife’s younger sisters.

“A breach of trust is unacceptable and the court will take a tough stand against this type of offending in the efforts to eradicate it. 

"There is a Samoan saying, ‘A malu i fale, e malu foi i fafo’ which means: ‘If you are safe in your family, you will also be safe outside’. 

“I sincerely hope that young girls of Samoa are safe.”

These points were made by Supreme Court Justice,   Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren,  when she sentenced  Vitale Iakopo, 37, to 15 years in jail for raping his wife’s two sisters. 

They were aged 14 and 15 at the time.

The accused is married with six children and during the time of the offenses, he was living in his wife’s village.

“The charge of rape carries the highest penalty available under the criminal law and that is imprisonment for life,” Justice Tafaoimalo said.

Iakopo was accused of five counts of rape, seven counts of sexual connection and one count of an indecent act with victims under the age of 16. 

He was found guilty by assessors after a trial on the 4th October.

Justice Tafaoimalo issued a suppression order to protect the identity of the victim as well as the village but the order does not extend to the defendant. 

She noted that according to the evidence, the 15 year old is the victim of five count of rapes and five counts of sexual connection while the 14 year old is the victim of two counts of sexual connection and one count of an indecent act.

Sometime in between the 30th July 2015 and 1st December 2016 the accused was married to the older sister of the two victims making him the brother in law of the girls.

During that time, he raped the 15 year old victim five times when he would ask for the victim to be sent to his house.

The accused and his wife lived inland at the plantation while the victims were living on a government main road.

On all occasions, he would commit acts of sexual connection on both victims. There was one occasion where he got both victims and engaged in a sexual activity with him.

According to the pre-sentence report, Vitale was banned from his wife’s village when news of the incident surfaced.

He has maintained his innocence to the probation officer.

In reading out the 15 year old girl’s Victim Impact Report, she said she feels shame because of what happened.

 She doesn’t want to think about it anymore but she has forgiven the accused and she has a child to someone else.

She was also unhappy as the accused is her sister’s husband and yet he did this to her. She said she was scared when it happened and when it was discovered, she felt embarrassed.

As for the 14 year old victim, she said in her report that she was scared and embarrassed because of what the accused did to her.

She said he would come to her when his wife was not at home and she finds it hard to accept what happened however she has forgiven him and is trying to move on with her life.

In reading out the aggravating features, Justice Tafaoimalo took into account the significant breach of trust.

“The accused is married to the victims’ older sister that makes him their older brother,” said Justice Tafaoimalo.

“Instead of protecting them as his younger sisters, he took advantage of his position towards his wife’s younger sisters.

“The other thing is the age of the victims. There is an age difference of 20 years between the accused and the victims.”

In handing down her decision, Justice Tafaoimalo also sent out a strong message to the accused as well as those who commit similar offences.

“There is a need to hold the accused accountable for the harm done to the victims,” she said.

“The victims are young, vulnerable and innocent.

“There is also an overriding need to deter the accused and others committing similar offences and to protect the community from the accused.

“This is particularly important to the children who are most vulnerable in the community.

“It is also a concern of the court that these offences occurred in the sanctuary of a home and were committed by a family member.”

© Samoa Observer 2016

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