A 36-year-old father has been jailed for seven years for sexually assaulting his biological daughter.
The sentencing was delivered by Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke.
“A child should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding,” Justice Leiataualesa said.
“The Court should send out a strong message where appropriate as in this case those offences of this nature … will not be tolerated and will be met with a sentence of imprisonment sufficient to mark society’s denunciation of such conduct.”
A suppression order was issued against the victim and the defendant as well given their relationship.
He is a father of eight. The prosecutor was Fuifui Ioane of the Attorney General’s Office while defense counsel was Arthur Lesa.
According to the Police summary of facts, the defendant sexually assaulted his biological daughter in January 2013.
On the first occasion, he went to his daughter who was sleeping and began to touch her legs.
She woke up, asked who it was and he covered her mouth and told her to be quiet.
When the defendant went outside the mosquito net, he asked her why she did not want him to touch her and she told him because it was bad.
After the first encounter, the defendant embarked on a long term sustained patterns of sexual abuse perpetrated against his daughter that became more serious after this first incident.
The second incident was between the 1st and 28th of February 2013, in between 10pm and 12am. He went to her when she was sleeping in her mosquito net and sexually assaulted her.
She was 13 years old then. Over the course of 2013, the defendant followed this pattern of sexually assaulting his daughter eight times on different occasions, doing so in May, June July, August, September, October, November and December.
In 2014, the defendant carried out the same pattern of sexually assaulting his daughter 10 times, from the months of January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August and December.
In 2015, the defendant maintained his sustained pattern of sexually assaulting his daughter a further 12 times in the months of January to December.
In 2016, he sexually assaulted his daughter again 10 times in the months of January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September and October.
The matter only came to light when his daughter became involved in an argument with another of his daughters in January 2017 and the younger sibling threatened to report the victim to their mother.
According to the defendant’s pre-sentence report, he told the probation officer that on the first occasion that he sexually assaulted his daughter, he had mistaken her for his wife.
The second time, he went to the victim while she was asleep and sexually assaulted her he did it for five minutes until she woke up, and this was the start of a pattern of sexual offending that continued over the next four years.
According to the victim’s impact report, the biological daughter is now 16 years old.
She said that she was threatened by her father and that she was scared every time he approached her.
She also explained that over the years that her father did this to her, if she refused, her father would be angry with her and punish her.
She no longer sees her father because it would remind her of what he did to her and that she no longer thinks of him.
She also said: “I want you to remain behind bars.”
In reading out the aggravating features of the offending, Justice Leiataualesa took into consideration the gross breach of trust between the father and daughter.
“The scale of your offending involving all 42 incidences of sexual offending constituting a pattern of sustained and long term sexual abuse against your own daughter over the period of four years,” he told the defendant.
“The harm to your daughter inherent in your offending, the age difference between you and your daughter, her vulnerability given her young age and the circumstances of offending and lastly the offending was premeditated and planned.
“There are no mitigating features in respect of the offending.
“Personal to you is your guilty plea, though the discount in sentence is reduced by the fact that after pleading guilty, you applied to vacate your guilty plea in October last year.
“That application was only withdrawn on 15 February this year after completion of the hearing to vacate your guilty plea.
“Nevertheless, your guilty plea has spared your daughter the ordeal of having to give evidence.
“I also take into account your prior good character and remorse.”
In handing down his decision, Justice Leiataualesa reminded the defendant the serious and prolonged offending.
“You have destroyed all that is special in a relationship between a father and daughter,” he told the defendant.
“A daughter rightfully can expect of her father love, support, guidance, and protection from those who might harm them.
“As a father, your role was to protect your daughter from harm, not to be the perpetrator of such acts against her, let alone within her home and in her bed.
“In doing so, you have destroyed your relationship with her and any trust that she could possibly have in you as her father.
“Your actions will have lasting consequences for your daughter.
“I bear in mind the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and what has been said in earlier cases.”
Justice Leiataualesa added in this case, it is an unusual matter.
“Your offending, however in my view is highly unusual because of the scale of your offending against your daughter and the long period of time that you did so,” he said.
“Your offending must therefore be condemned to clearly reflect society’s denunciation of such abhorrent acts on your daughter that are repugnant to the community’s strong Christian values, Samoan culture and the role of a father in the Samoan family unit.
“Importantly, the sentence imposed today (Wednesday) is to deter you and others from committing such offences.”
Prosecution has sought a starting point of five years imprisonment, which was supported by defense counsel; however Justice Leiataulesa said it was inappropriate.
“I will apply the totality in sentencing principles and adopt information S164/17 as the lead charge,” he said.
“Given the serious aggravating factors of your offending and the need for a deterrent sentence, I adopt nine years imprisonment starting point for sentence.
“I deduct four months for your prior good character and four months for your remorse stated before the Court.
“From the balance of your sentence, I deduct 16 months for your guilty plea.
“In sentencing you, information S184/17, you are convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment less time remanded in custody.
“For the 40 remaining charges of unlawful sexual connection, you are convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment on each to be served concurrently to information S164/17 and for the charge of indecent assault, three months imprisonment to be served concurrently.”