Man gets non-custodial sentence for manslaughter

A man charged with manslaughter has been given a two year non-custodial sentence with supervision. 

One condition of his sentencing includes cooking a meal for the elderly once a month. The manslaughter offence has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.   

Fa’ato Taumafai of Sapulu Faleasi’u was sentenced by Supreme Court Judge, Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa on February 15. 

He was represented by Maiava Visekota Peteru with Lucy Sio Ofoia the prosecutor. 

The offending occurred on Sunday July 22, 2012 where Taumafai and his cousin accompanied a female cousin, who had gone shopping with her daughter for their Sunday to’onai. 

According to the summary of facts, the two males went with them because they live far inland and had left early hours of the morning. The deceased – who was heavily intoxicated– approached them and asked for the cousin’s daughter, but they ignored him and kept on walking. 

“Regardless of their obvious response to the deceased man’s impetuous requests, he was persistent and followed them, demanding that the daughter be given to him.

“Out of fear the daughter ran towards her uncle the defendant, while the deceased followed her. The defendant then punched the deceased on the jaw, and the deceased fell and hit his head on the road surface, to which he died as a result of the injuries.”

In her ruling, Justice Tuatagaloa highlighted the reasons for her decision, emphasising the cultural aspect of Samoan girls being protected and feeling safe around their brothers.   

“From a Samoan cultural perspective, it is an affront to the Samoan males of a family – if a male regardless of ethnicity –approaches any female relative the way the deceased had done, so this fateful morning openly asking and demanding that the girl be given to him,” stated the ruling. 

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“It is disrespectful and insulting to our shared understanding and world view, and with regards to our Samoan norms and values, it is a breach to the sanctity afforded to Samoan women and girls of being safe in the presence of their brothers or male relatives. 

“The reaction of the defendant and what he did is what any Samoan male would do, if a heavily intoxicated male approached a female relative and demanded that the female relative be given to him. In the circumstances of this offending, the defendant only delivered one punch, which the deceased unfortunately died from. The defendant was indeed provoked and tempted by the deceased.”

Justice Tuatagaloa pointed out that the defendant is a first time offender, but nevertheless a loss of life is always taken very seriously by the Court, and takes the surrounding circumstances of the offending into account. 

She also stressed that such behaviour from the deceased man contributes to sexual offending and domestic violence. 

“The deceased’s intoxicated state at the time and his behavior towards the daughter is disconcerting, because it shows that there are Samoan males out there that think and treat females as commodities with the mentality that as a man can do whatever he likes. 

“This is the attitude and mindset that contributes to sexual offending and domestic violence against women and girls, where such problems will continue to exist in society unless such thinking changes.”

According to the Justice’s ruling, the defendant’s family performed an ifoga and was accepted by the deceased’s family. Taumafai was also penalized by the village and his family contributed to the deceased funeral.  

There was a written testimonials provided to the pre-sentenced report from a Methodist church minister (Methodist) of the village of Sapulu. A confirmation from the manager of Le Vasa Resort, where the defendant works, was also attached. 

The testimonials stated that the defendant is hard working and a good person. 

“This validates that since the offending in 2012, the defendant has made an effort to positively contribute to the community and also his family, he has also not committed any other offences since,” said Justice Tuatagaloa. 

“Even the circumstances of this offending the prosecution recommends a non-custodial sentence of 3 years supervision with conditions that the defendant attends counselling and any services that would assist in his rehabilitation. 

“The maximum term for supervision is 2 years under the Community Justice Act 2008. I agree with the recommendation in the context of this specific offending. A non-custodial sentence imposed in this case on a charge of manslaughter does not mean that the Court condones such behavior where a life was taken. 

“The defendant is convicted and sentenced to 2 years supervision with the following condition that; once a month, the defendant is to assist with cooking a meal for old people’s home at Mapuifagalele and at S.V.S.G.”

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