Justice warns of “stranger danger”

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 19 September 2017, 12:00AM

A Supreme Court Justice has called on the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture to encourage the education of students and parents alike about what she calls “stranger danger.”

Justice Leilani Tuala-Warren made the call when she sentenced a man who abducted and raped of a 10-year-old girl from school for 15 years.

Isaia Liuafi, of Manono, Leauva'a and Talimatau was convicted of rape, the abduction of a child and three counts of sexual connection.

The incident occurred in May 2014 when the victim finished school and was hanging around with some friends. The victim’s friends were picked up while she walked to the shop next door. When she exited, that’s when she met the defendant. 

 “He told her that her mother was waiting for her. She did not know the guy,” Justice Tafaoimalo said. “He held her hand and they both walked down the road. They came across a side road to the left and she saw an abandoned house. 

“He told her to go with him to the abandoned house and she said no. They kept walking down the side road. Then he told her to go into a togafai. 

“She said no but he grabbed her hand, pulled her and strangled her neck. When they got to the togafa’i he sat her down and held her hands. He looked around for passing pedestrians.”

Then he raped her.

The Supreme Court Justice noted that after the incident, Liuafi asked the victim if he could take her packet of biscuits. 

“So she gave him the packet of biscuits. She told him to leave first but he said they would leave together. She gave him $5 tala then he left. 

“She started to cry and a passer-by found her and took her home. Later she identified the guy who did this to her from a montage of police photographs and from an identification parade conducted by Police.”

Liuafi was 21 years old at the time of the offending; he’s single and lives with his parents and siblings. He left school in Year 11, and is an active member of the Methodist church, attending both youth and choir groups. He has previous convictions for burglary, theft and escape.

Justice Tafaoimalo said in court the victim is now 14 years old. 

“She was 10 years old in 2014 when the offending occurred and was in year five. She says that she had love bites all over her neck and chest after the offending.

“She says in the victim impact report that she was afraid and wanted to escape but was too weak to do so. She knows that what the defendant did to her was unacceptable. Her family is frustrated as this matter has taken so long. It happened in 2014. Her brothers in particular have wanted to take revenge.” 

Justice Tafaoimalo also noted the defendant did not apologise nor has any reconciliation taken place. He has not shown any remorse.

“This offending was premeditated, well planned and executed. The defendant targeted this young victim who was by herself. He enticed her into coming with him by telling her a lie that her mother was waiting for her. 

“He then led her to an isolated and unpopulated area, off the main road, down a side road, where he could be alone with her.

“This was in essence an abduction to enable the defendant to carry out the sexual violation. The victim was not free to leave as he held her hand from in front of the shop and then pulled her hand and strangled her neck when he took her into the togafai. 

“The victim was vulnerable given her young age of 10 years old. 

“She was trusting and went along with the defendant which shows that she lacked the understanding at her age to recognise the predicament she was in. 

“This vulnerability stems from the fact that she was naïve and had not attained the maturity to recognise danger and be able to defend herself. 

“The defencelessness of the victim in this case is particularly striking. 

“In accordance with section 8(2) Sentencing Act 2016, the Court must take into account the defencelessness of the victim, as an aggravating factor when sentencing an defendant in a case involving violence against a person under the age of 18 years. “She wanted to escape but was too weak to do so,” said Tafaoimalo.

She further noted the extent of the harm to the victim is taken into account. 

“It was obvious during the giving of her evidence during the hearing that her memories of what happened are still quite vivid. 

“This incident will stay with her for the rest of her life.  

“This is also a case of unprotected sex which in itself is risky for the victim, fortunately she did not contract a sexually transmitted disease. 

“This was a serious violation of the victim’s sexual autonomy. 

“She was a virgin and she was violated in a most cruel way.” 

Justice Tafaoimalo said rape is an inherently violent act, and this case is no exception. Other graphic sexual acts by Isaia are labelled as “acts of particular cruelty in the commission of the offence.” 

“This is the rape of a young school girl by a complete stranger. A stranger who held her hand and led her away after school. Whether it is a case of stranger rape or acquaintance rape, rape carries the highest penalty available under the criminal law and that is imprisonment for life.” 

The Judge said that deterrence would be of paramount consideration in the sentence. 

“This targeted and planned sexual violation of a child is unacceptable.

“There is a significant need for deterrence, to deter the offender and to deter other like-minded people from targeting innocent young school aged children who cannot defend themselves and have not yet acquired the maturity to fully comprehend and appreciate risky and/or unsafe situations.

“There is a need to hold the defendant 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. 

“The effects of this offending on the victim will no doubt last a lifetime,” she said.  

“What happened in this case is something that no 10 year old child or any child should have to endure. “Childhood is a time of innocence and this defendant has robbed this child of that innocence.

“The protection of the public, in particular our young children is also an important consideration in today’s sentencing. 

“This is a case of immense public interest for the reason that this victim is a young school girl picked up by a complete stranger after school.

“This indicates a need for awareness around stranger danger in homes and schools.” 

Justice Tafaoimalo sentenced the defendant to 15 years in jail.

By Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu 19 September 2017, 12:00AM

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