Convicted rapist gets 4-year jail sentence

A man convicted of raping a seven-year-old girl has been sentenced to four years imprisonment at the Tanumalala Prison. 

The sentencing of Ieremia Faletagaloa was handed down by Supreme Court Justice, Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren last Friday. 

The defendant was found guilty by a panel of assessors in June for charges of sexual connection with a child and indecent act on a child. 

Justice Tafaoimalo noted the evidence which indicated that on 15 July 2018, the accused was lying under a sheet in an open fale where the victim and her siblings were playing.   

The victim was left alone when her siblings left and the accused removed the sheet and called the victim, who ran up the stairs to leave but the defendant pulled her back down, removed her clothes and had sex with her.

“She says he did this for some time. The victim says she was crying the whole time,” Justice Tafaoimalo said.

Faletagaloa of Vaisala is 21 years of age and is in a de facto relationship and has a child.

According to Justice Tafaoimalo, the defendant maintained his innocence.

However, defence counsel Sarona Ponifasio informed the court that despite maintaining his innocence, the accused is truly remorseful. 

Justice Tafaoimalo pointed out that the victim was seven-years-old at the time of the offence and is now nine years of age. 

“The victim impact report is provided by her mother who says that her daughter was taken three times to the hospital as she was having difficulties passing water.” 

The victim now lives with the mother’s aunty, as the mother says there is tension within the family of the accused and it was better to take the victim away.

The mother of the victim said the family of the accused visited them four times to apologise, and they accepted the apology and forgave him. 

However, when the accused was taken into custody, his family changed with the mother indicating there was pressure to withdraw the complaint from the Police by the extended family. But her husband said the matter was now before the courts.

Justice Tafaoimalo noted that it’s aggravating that the accused is the victim’s older family member, who lives within the same vicinity as the victim.  

“Implicit in this offending is a gross breach of trust.  The domestic or familial relationship in itself is an aggravating factor.” 

“The victim is a child and was vulnerable and defenceless against the accused. The accused knew the victim was very young.”

“The age disparity between the accused and the victim is also aggravating.  There is an age disparity of 13 years, the accused being 20 years old. This, like young age, goes to the vulnerability of the victim.”

“The physical and psychological impact on the victim is taken into account as an aggravating feature. The victim in her evidence says she was crying the whole time. The victim’s childhood and innocence has been marred by what the accused did to her.”

Justice Tafaoimalo further said that children under 12 years of age cannot defend themselves.

“In this case, there is a need to hold the accused accountable for the harm done to the victim, to promote in him a sense of responsibility for, and an acknowledgment of that harm, and to provide for the interests of the victim who is very young, vulnerable and defenceless,” she said.

“There is also an overriding need to deter the accused and others from committing the same or similar offences and to protect the community from the accused. This protection is particularly important for children.” 

Justice Tafaoimalo said deterrence is extremely important in this particular instance and the victim at seven years of age is a child and this behaviour should not be condoned.

“The victim is a child of seven years old. This predatory behaviour must be purged. The court should not tire of imposing high imprisonment terms to deter this type of unacceptable behaviour. 

“To subject a seven-year-old child to this type of behaviour is appalling, and in this case has resulted in this young victim being relocated away from her family when she bears no blame whatsoever for the offending and is completely innocent. 

“I have noticed that despite the high imprisonment terms imposed, the prevalence of sexual offending against our young girls has seemed to increase. Community efforts through the churches and through village councils must be amplified. A genuine and active community response is required, otherwise our children will continue to be at risk, particularly within their own homes, families and villages.” 

Justice Tafaoimalo also alluded to victim blaming, which is an opinion that seems to have been voiced publically, and described it as “abhorrent” and holds no place in the fight against sexual violence. 

“I make one other comment specific to the family of the accused, which they may or may not accept. 

“The mother of the victim has said that despite the earlier apologies by the accused and his family, tension has now arisen between their family and the family of the accused. 

“For what reason, I am uncertain. However, it is the time for the family to come together to heal the hurt within the family, not create more tension and ill will. This is the opportunity to use what has happened to grow as a family and to ensure that this family will not go through this experience again. 

“The learning opportunity for the young men of this family is enormous, although it has come at a very high cost to this victim. It is critical to say now that any suggestion of ‘victim blaming’ of this young child is unequivocally wrong and if that attitude is at all present amongst those involved, it should be condemned.” 

The defendant was sentenced to four years imprisonment.

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