Samoan human trafficker appeals sentence

By Hyunsook Siutaia 05 September 2020, 8:00AM

A Samoan man convicted and jailed for slavery and people trafficking in New Zealand has appealed his eleven-year jail sentence.

In what was New Zealand’s first case of human trafficking and slavery, Joseph Auga Matamata was been sentenced to 11 years in prison and ordered to pay NZ$183,000 in reparations to his victims.

Matamata was jailed in July for taking 13 Samoans to Hastings over the last 25 years and overworking them for little to no pay.

But both the prosecution and Matamata's defence have both lodged appeals in the case, according to local media reports.

Matamata was sentenced in the Napier High Court on Monday for taking 13 Samoans to Hastings over the last 25 years, overworking them for little to no pay to which he was found guilty of 10 charges in human trafficking and 13 charges in dealing in slaves.

He was acquitted of one trafficking charge. 

Crown Law in Wellington lodged an appeal against the sentence, arguing that the starting point for Justice Helen Cull to assess the punishment was inadequate and that a minimum non-parole period, equal to at least half the final sentence, should have been in effect.

This week, the prosecution also lodged an appeal based on legal aspects of the trial and the rulings of the judge and the admissibility judgments of some evidence. 

Radio New Zealand published a brief statement from Crown Law stating its position. 

It reads: "The Crown has filed an appeal against the sentence imposed on Mr Matamata. The Crown challenges both the length of the sentence as manifestly inadequate and the absence of a minimum period of imprisonment.

In June, the Crown seized Matamata’s property to pay his victims reparations: half of his property including shares in Hastings homes. Between 1994 and 2019, Matamata took Samoans to New Zealand for horticultural work, where they instead worked 14-hour days, seven days a week doing chores for Matamata in his home. They were physically abused if they disobeyed.

Victims of Matamata's offending in Samoa have welcomed the decision by the Court to jail him.

By Hyunsook Siutaia 05 September 2020, 8:00AM

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