Church man jailed 16 years for rape

A 37-year-old man who holds a senior position within the church has been jailed 16 years for rape.

Latana Malaki Fretton, a taxi driver with a history of previous convictions, was found guilty of raping 21-year-old woman who got in his taxi after the 54th Independence celebration in 2016 at Tuanaimato.

He also threatened to kill her.

The name of the victim and details that could lead to her identification have been suppressed.

Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren presided. Lucy Sio appeared on behalf of the Prosecution while Unasa Iuni Sapolu appeared on behalf of defense counsel Pa’u Tafaogalupe Mulitalo who was absent.

Fretton has five previous convictions from 1997 to 2011 including three counts of carnal knowledge in 1999.

He is married with four children and he holds a high position in the L.D.S. Church as the President of the Elder’s Quorum.

Before Justice Tafaoimalo, Fretton was given an opportunity to speak. He told the Court he and his lawyer had planned to appeal the decision.

 “I spoke to my lawyer and we were discussing that when we come back this afternoon we will appeal the decision however he is not here,” he said.

The defendant was found guilty by the panel of assessors on 17 May 2017.

The rape took place on 1 June 2016 after the Independence Day at Tuanaimato. The victim got into the defendant’s taxi and asked to be dropped off at the fish market at Savalalo.

“The victim and the defendant did not know each other and this was the victim’s first time in his taxi. The defendant instead drove to an isolated area at Aele Fou, an area he knew well.

“On the way, the victim kept pleading with the defendant to drop her to town.”

The Court heard Fretton told the victim he just wanted to talk. He went on to threaten her that he she didn’t do what he wanted, he would kill her.

 “He removed her phone from her bag that was on her lap and put it in the glove box. Upon arrival at the isolated area, the defendant pulled the victim out of the car and threw her on to the ground.”

The woman struggled with the defendant until he eventually subdued her.

After he raped her, he took her to the fish market where they exchanged phone numbers.

 “The victim promised to contact the defendant because she was fearful for her life. The victim was meeting her boyfriend at the fish market bus stop and as soon as she met him, she told him what happened. They reported the matter to the Police.”

According to the victim’s impact statement, the trauma of what happened has made it difficult for the woman to live a normal life.

“In terms of the trauma she finds it hard to write properly in school as her hands keep shaking,” said Justice Tafaoimalo.

“She also cannot sleep well because the incident is always in her mind and she gets terrified when she remembers what happened.

“The defendant did not apologize nor has made any reconciliation to the victim.”

In reading out the aggravating features of the crime Justice Tafaoimalo said the offending was opportunistic at first, that is sexual violation of an impulsive nature, but then the defendant planned what he would do next to an extent. 

“The drive to the isolated area was not a short drive, it was a drive which gave him enough time to reassess what he was doing,” said Justice Tafaoimalo.

“He instead took her phone from her bag and put it in the glove box so that she could not contact anyone. 

“He drove to an isolated area to ensure that he would be alone with the victim, an area with which he was familiar. 

“This was in essence an abduction to enable the defendant to carry out the sexual violation.

“The victim was vulnerable and this was her first time to get in the taxi and he controlled the taxi and where he was going and he did not listen to her desperate pleas to take her into town.

“It is clear from the victim impact report that the victim has been traumatized by the incident and this was also a case of unprotected sex which in itself comes with all its risks and this was a serious violation of the victim’s sexual autonomy.”

During her decision, she also urged the Land Transport Authority to look deeply against issuing license to people with criminal backgrounds.

“It is in the public interest that the Land Transport Authority be given a copy of this decision so that they can consider the importance of a clean police record for any driver of a public transport vehicle,” she told the court.

“It’s important to ensure that a driver of a public transport vehicle has no previous convictions for sexual offences. 

“This case will no doubt lessen the public confidence in travelling by taxis and any license for driving public transport vehicles held by the defendant in this case should be revoked.”

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