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Sex charges ex-Pastor jailed four years

A former pastor of the Methodist church, accused over sex charges, kneeled in the Supreme Court with his wife while he was sentenced to four years and ten months in jail. 

Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa delivered the sentence against Tugia Tuliau on Wednesday.

The defendant bowed his head during sentence submissions while the Prosecutor and Attorney General’s Office lawyer, Anne Matalasi, sought an eight year jail term for the accused. Tuliau's lawyer, Leiataualesa Komisi Koria, argued for a lesser term, giving five years as a starting point. 

He pointed out the offending was out of character for the former pastor. 

The former pastor of the Methodist church in Satalo, Falealili, pleaded guilty to eight counts of sexual connection with a family member and one count of indecent assault.  

Leiataualesa added the defendant had been a devoted servant of the church for the past 15 years with four of those years serving the Satalo parish. 

“He has presented a traditional apology to the family of the victim, presenting a $1,000 tala and two big ie toga [fine mats],” he said. 

The Court also heard that the accused had to pay $2,000 tala and 30 boxes of tinned fish as his penalty to his village in Savai’i. 

“His wife has forgiven him and is present in Court. He has also had his pastoral titles removed,” said the defense lawyer. 

“He is remorseful…his children and family have suffered humiliation due to the current proceedings in Court.” 

At this point, the wife of the accused kneeled before the Court while Tuliau continued to weep in the defendant’s dock, on his knees. 

But Justice Tuatagaloa reminded the accused and his wife that it is not her that they should seek forgiveness from but God. 

She expressed sadness and disappointment over the actions of the former pastor, a position she said is well respected in Samoa.

The Supreme Court Judge pointed out that a prisoner or anyone should be safe in the home of a pastor but it was not the case for the 16-year-old victim, let alone a relative. 

“I am saddened that such violence against women and children continues to happen and is increasing in our country,” said Justice Tuatagaloa.  “The pastor’s home is where our children should be safe, it is a place where as Samoan parents they have no fear in sending their children to their homes. 

“But now even at the pastor’s home our children are no longer safe there.” 

Justice Tuatagaloa also raised concerns about the future of the 16-year-old victim and the impact of offending it has on her and her family. 

While the defense lawyer emphasised the impact of the offending on the accused and his family, the Supreme Court Judge asked how about the victim and her family. 

She said there is also the perception and humiliation carried by the victim and her parents in the eyes of the village. 

In taking 8 years starting point for charges of sexual connection, Justice Tuatagaloa deducted 3 years and 2 months for being a first offender, traditional apology presented to the family of the victim, and early guilty plea. 

A two years imprisonment was also considered by the Judge for the indecent assault charge. 

After deducting time for mitigating factor, Justice Tuatagaloa sentenced Tuliau to 4 years and 10 months for the charges. 

According to the summary of facts, the first sexual offence took place at the former pastor’s home in Satalo while his wife was attending a family faalavelave. The Court heard that the victim lived with Tuliau and his family and she called him "dad." 

On the day of the first offending on 16th September, Tuliau had instructed the victim to come go into a room as he had a gift for her 16th birthday.  He had sexual intercourse with her and later told the victim that was his gift for her birthday. 

The last incident took place in the family home at Satalo, when his wife was also not home. 

The Court heard that the 13-year-old daughter of the accused had suspected something between her father and the 16 year old victim. 

The 13-year-old had gone to the room of the victim and found that she was not there. 

She then heard noises from a room where her father later came out and found her crying. 

The summary of facts stated that when Tuliau’s daughter asked him what he was doing, he told her he will tell her some other day. 

The 13-year-old later told a teacher at her school about what happened and the matter was then reported to Police.  

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