Trial underway for teacher accused of indecent assault
The trial of a retired teacher charged with indecently assaulting three young girls at Tiavea Primary School began in the Supreme Court on Thursday.
Sola Ali’imanu has pleaded not guilty to three charges of indecent assault on a child and one count of indecent assault on a young person.
Justice Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma is presiding over the case and issued a suppression order on the identity of the young children giving evidence in the trial.
About seven young girls, not including teachers, from Tiavea Primary School are giving evidence in the matter.
First to give evidence was a 12-year-old from Tiavea who attends the Primary School.
In her evidence, the young witness, who was 10 years old at the time of the alleged offending against her, said the accused was her teacher in October 2017.
She recalled that the accused was her English teacher and alleged he pinched her on the breast.
“He stood behind from me [sitting on the desk] and had his right hand used to mark my book,” she said.
“He had his left hand over my shoulder and he pinched my breast once…I made a mistake once and I got pinched.”
The young witness said there were other students inside the class at the time.
The defendant was represented by lawyer Tusa Tasi Patea while the Attorney General’s Office lawyer, Ann Matalasi, prosecuted the case.
During cross-examination, Tusa put it to the witness that the accused was a good teacher and loved his students.
The lawyer asked the witness if it was true that the teacher did not dispense corporal punishment to students and had instead pinched her because of a mistake made in her school work.
She replied that this was true.
The lawyer asked the witness if she knew that her parents did not like the accused.
The witness said she did not understand.
The second witness called on Thursday was a 13-year-old from the same school.
The young girl testified that sometime in 2018 when she was in Year 6 the accused did something similar to her.
“Sola marked our work and he stood from behind, he hugged me from behind and touched my breast,” she said.
“He had his right hand over my shoulder and his left hand was placed under my breast.”
The witness demonstrated how the teacher allegedly hugged her from behind inside the Court.
In cross-examination, the defence lawyer queried the witness if this was the teacher’s way of disciplining her for making a mistake in mathematics: by pinching students instead of hitting them.
She replied yes.
The lawyer also asked the student who had told her to give evidence in the matter.
She replied that it was her grandmother.
The hearing continues on Friday.