Court date for man accused of raping daughter's friend set

A 38-year-old man accused of raping his daughter’s friend at Falefa in March last year re-appeared before the Supreme Court on Monday.

The trial of the defendant, Towayne Bernard, who is also known as Tamiano Peniata, was declared a mistrial by Supreme Court Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa early this month.

Prosecutor Fuifui Ioane made the application to have the Court declare a mistrial, as she submitted that there is evidence showing the victim's testimony on the witness stand was influenced. Justice Tuatagaloa then told the trial assessors then that there are issues with the victim’s testimony and that she was granting an application by the prosecution for the proceedings to be declared a mistrial.

After the defendant re-appeared for mention on Monday, the Court set a three-day hearing for 27 March 2021. The defendant has continued to maintain that he is innocent.

The Court heard that the defendant was 36 when the alleged rape occurred.

The alleged victim is also of Falefa, was 15 years of age. It took place on the night of 23 March 2019 at the home of the defendant.

The victim is good friends with the defendant's daughter. The victim and defendant are related through their extended family and is the victim’s uncle. It was submitted in court that the defendant’s wife was at bingo at the time of the alleged crime.

However, the victim changed her story on the witness stand and told the court the defendant didn’t pull her into a room and force her to have sex with him, and added that she changed her story because her mother advised her to do so.

The defendant is facing four counts: one count of rape; two counts of sexual connection with a young person and one count of indecent act on a young person.

The defendant is represented by lawyer, Tuala Ponifasio.  The victim, now 17 years of age, resides with the Samoa Victim Support Group [S.V.S.G.].

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