Father who threatened to burn his family jailed

A man, who threatened to set his five children and wife alight in February last year, has been jailed for four years and eight months.

David Crichton, of Fa’atoia, had pleaded guilty to one charge of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to his wife, one charge of being armed with a dangerous weapon and one charge of threatening words. 

The 47-year-old father had also stabbed his wife seven times, leaving her motionless on the ground while his seven-year-old son attended to her. 

The decision was delivered by Supreme Court Judge, Justice Leiataualesa Daryl Clarke. 

Crichton was initially charged for the attempted murder of his wife, which was later withdrawn after he breached his bail condition and went and lived with his wife and children. 

On the day the matter was called for hearing, his wife and children who were main witnesses against him, did not turn up in Court. 

According to the summary of facts, Crichton was separated from his wife for about two years at the time of the offending. 

He had called his wife to bring the children to Fa’atoia and when they tried to leave, he got angry, took the car keys off her, and told her they are to stay with him. 

She reluctantly complied and when his wife and children tried to leave Fa’atoia in the early hours of February 5, 2018 to get the children ready for school he became angry. 

She had walked to the car and had waited for the rest of the children to get there, but at that time Crichton had grabbed her by the hair and pulled her out of the car. 

The man had directed his children and wife to get in the car and told them “we are going to die”. 

In addition, he also threatened his wife and children saying “is this what you want is to have you all set alight?”.   

He had then reversed the car and told one of his daughters to fetch two petrol bottles from inside the garage. 

As his daughter took too long, he got out of the car and his wife at the time got out, and tried to run away from him. 

Crichton ran after his wife then took a knife out of his pocket and tried to stab her.

She tried to resist, a scuffle occurred and the knife fell down. 

The Court heard that as she reached for the knife, she was pushed over by Crichton and she fell to the ground. 

“As she lay on her stomach, you grabbed the knife, walked to her and stabbed her seven times,” said Justice Leiataualesa. 

“You left your wife motionless on the ground and she was then attended to by your seven-year-old son.” 

According to the medical report prepared by Dr. Rosanna Amosa, the woman’s wounds were described as seven open wounds from the scalp occipital region to the right button. 

There were several other deep lacerations to the nape of her neck, three deep laceration on her right shoulder and her arm and right buttock. 

Crichton’s wife was admitted at the hospital for five days. 

In his decision, Justice Leiataualesa made it clear that the offending was a very serious case of domestic violence. 

“Like many cases of domestic violence between husband and wife and intimate partners, you were exercising your control and physical power over your wife,” he said. 

“This is blatantly clear from your behaviour that night, your intimidation and bullying of your wife and treatment of her prior to you then stabbing her. 

“In doing so you grabbed your wife by her hair and dragged her out of the car, a demeaning and disgraceful act in itself perpetrated against your wife.

“Also aggravating is that your offending including your very serious threats of harm to your family, were carried out in the presence of your children. 

“You threatened your wife saying ‘e ke makamaka I lau mea o le a fai ia oe’ and when your wife and children went into the car, you said “o kakou lea la o e feoki’ and when in the car, you said “o le mea lea kou ke magagao ai, o le susugu o oukou”.

“To exacerbate the impact of your threats, you then told your daughter to go get the petrol can.”

Justice Leiataualesa made reference to the Victim Impact Report from his wife as his children are also victims. 

“For the children, their presence that night, their observation of your conduct, your beating of their mother and your threats to set them alight could only have been terrifying to see and to be a part of,” he said. 

“Particularly terrifying is that these serious threats have been perpetrated by their father. 

“You then in what appears to have been a frenzy of anger when your wife tried to escape, chased her down and then you stabbed her multiple times in the back and neck as she was vulnerable and on the ground.”  

The Judge pointed out that domestic violence is at such a level of frequency in Samoa that deterrent sentences are generally necessary. 

The prevalence, seriousness and also the silence remaining around domestic violence in Samoa was also discussed in the Family Violence Inquiry conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman. 

Part of the relevant findings of the report that Justice Leiataualesa referred to, are that people are becoming so accustomed to violence that slapping, kicking, punching, swearing at or threatening is now instinctive for many and considered not serious. 

In terms of intimate partner violence, this makes up a large amount of family violence in Samoa with six out of 10 women being subject to domestic violence at some point in their lives. 

Furthermore, Justice Leiataualesa emphasised that there continues to be a belief by some men, including Crichton that the beating or assault of a partner is acceptable. 

“Those views have no place in modern Samoa, if indeed it ever had a place in our society,” he said. 

“There is simply no excuse for what you did or for this violence. 

“Where serious violence using a weapon is perpetrated against a spouse or an intimate partner, the offender should be under no illusion that such offending will likely be punished with a lengthy custodial term of imprisonment. 

“Given the very serious nature and circumstances of your offending including the use of a kitchen knife to stab your wife multiple times including to the head and neck, her vulnerability and the presence of the children, these are significant aggravating factors that are to be reflected in the start point for sentence. 

“It should be understood by those who might think that domestic violence is acceptable that the Courts hold a very different view.”

In sentencing Crichton, Justice Leiataualesa said it is a deterrent sentence given the prevalence of domestic violence, the very serious nature of offending. 

“In my respectful view, such a sentence must not only denounce your conduct but also act as a deterrent to you and also others who might consider similar serious offending against their partners,” he said. 

“Where there are differences in a marriage or intimate partner relationship, those differences must be resolved peacefully and maturely and not through violent means to impose your will. 

“In sentencing you, I also accept that since your offending, you are genuinely remorseful for your actions, you have reconciled and there has been reconciliation between your families and in this regard, I take into account the factors set out in section 17(2)(e) of the Family Safety Act 2013 and the steps you have taken.” 

Prosecution had raised breach of bail as an aggravating feature. 

This is despite Crichton’s bail conditions prohibiting him from contacting his wife and children who were witnesses in the matter he resumed living with his family whist on bail. 

Justice Leiataualesa said he had no doubt that because the breach of those bail conditions Crichton’s wife and children then did not attend the hearing of the matter on the attempted murder against him which did not go ahead. 

“In my view, your actions in breach of your bail conditions materially compromised the prosecution’s ability to proceed with the attempted murder charge against you.”

Attorney General’s lawyer Fuifui Ioane was the prosecutor for the matter. 

Tauiliili Harry Schuster was the lawyer for Crichton. 

Crichton has been sentence to 4 years and 8 months for the charge of assault causing grievous bodily harm. 

On the charge of being armed with a dangerous weapon he is convicted and sentenced to 3 months imprisonment and threatening words he is convicted and sentenced to 1 month imprisonment. 

All the sentencing to be served concurrently.   

Crichton had difficulty learning in his younger age and had left school at the end of year 7. 

He then lived in New Zealand for a number of years and while there he secured work as a plumber. He later returned to Samoa and had lived with his mother at Fa'atoia. 

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