Husband jailed for cowardly attack on young wife

A 38-year-old man of Satuimalufilufi and Mulifanua has been sentenced to 11 months imprisonment for stabbing his 17-year-old wife’s face.

Afa Tila, who pleaded guilty to assault causing serious harm with intent, was convicted and sentenced by Justice Lei'ataualesa Daryl Clarke on Tuesday afternoon.

He is also required to be under probation supervision for six months when released and undergo no less than six weeks programme for anger management.  

The Court heard the village of the defendant penalised him, demanding 500 boxes of tinned fish and payment of $2000 tala for what he did to his wife. 

Justice Leiataualesa described the offending as a cowardly attack from the defendant on his young wife. 

He emphasised the Court does not tolerate such violence against women.

“As you should be aware from television, newspapers and government programmes, domestic violence in Samoa is a significant problem,” he said.

“Yet despite the awareness around domestic violence with the hope of stopping domestic violence in Samoa, it continues to be a significant problem. 

“It is also a particularly significant problem between husbands and wives and what is called in English, intimate partner relationships.”

Because of the significant problem of domestic violence in Samoa, the Ombudsman recently completed an inquiry into domestic violence. 

Justice Leiataualesa pointed out the finding of that inquiry about the prevalent of domestic violence in Samoa is quite disturbing. 

He added there continues to be a very high number of domestic violence matters in Samoa and that is the experience of the Court. 

“Whilst I accept that you are genuinely remorseful for your actions, you have been forgiven by your wife and you have been punished by your village, a deterrent sentence is nevertheless necessary to deter you and others from committing this type of violence offending against wives and partners,” said Justice Leiataualesa.

“Having said this, I accept that your offending was at the lower end of seriousness of this type of offending. 

“The injuries suffered, whilst serious, are not permanent injuries with the injury requiring two stitches being apparently the most serious. 

“The victim is fully healed with no ongoing impairment and she has no ongoing psychological trauma as a result of your offending.”

Furthermore, the sentence imposed by the Supreme Court is both a deterrent sentence for Tia and others for similar type of offending. 

Justice Leiataualesa said most importantly the sentence is to address the cause of the defendant’s offending, which was anger. 

The Judge was also mindful of the positive steps taken by the defendant under the Family Safety Act. 

“Afa, in sentencing you, it is important that when you have differences with others, that those differences should be resolved peacefully and through discussion and not violence. 

“You assault at the end of the day was a cowardly attack on your young wife.”  

Prosecution had sought a two and a half years imprisonment as a starting point for sentence. 

In the circumstances, Justice Leiataualesa view is that the starting point is too high and had adopted a two years start point. 

From that start point, six months was deducted for Tila’s genuine remorse and reconciliation with his wife. 

Another three months was deducted for the village penalty and from the balance another four months was taken away for his early guilty plea. 

Tila is married and unemployed. According to his pre-sentence report, he had completed school in Year 12. 

On completion of his school, he worked various jobs before working at his family plantation.  

His young wife, on the other hand, she did not suffer any permanent injury. 

While the summary of facts states that she is 17, the impact report says she is 19 years old.

Justice Leiataualesa said whether she was 17 or 19, the age difference with Tila is significant. 

In her victim impact report she states that she suffers no psychological trauma stating that she was the person who started the dispute and she does not blame her husband for what has happened. 

The Court heard she confirms that Tila had been to see her, apologised and had wept while apologising. 

The husband had asked for her she said that she has forgiven him and wants to withdraw the matter against him as they have reconciled. 

The offending began on the 5th March, 2019 at Satuimalufilufi. 

The next morning while the victim was making Samoan cocoa, Tila tried to make amends with his wife. She however told him to leave and that she wanted a divorce.  

Later that day, between 3 and 4pm, the defendant was placing the cocoa beans into the fire when he dropped it. 

This caused him to become angry and he had turned to his wife and told her off. 

At that point his mother in-law intervened telling him that he should have left their home when he was told to leave. 

Whilst when the young wife was picking up the cocoa beans, Tila then stabbed her with a stick used to stir cocoa beans aiming at her right eye. 

She dodged the stab and this landed on her right shoulder. 

The defendant then stabbed at her again aiming at her right eye, but she moved and the wooden spoon left an injury just below her right eye.   

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