Man jailed for sexual connection

A 30-year-old man who impregnated a girl half his age has been sentenced to jail for sexual connection.  

Vini Vincent Solia of Fasito’o Uta appeared before the Supreme Court Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren for sentencing on one count of sexual connection. This follows a bench trial where Solia was found guilty.

Justice Tafaoimalo issued a suppression order on the victim, but made it clear that the order is not applicable to the defendant in the case. 

According to the evidence, on the night of November 25, 2017 the accused met the victim on the road, as she was going to a church event and asked her to go with him. The encounter led to the accused having sexual intercourse with the 15-year-old girl. 

“According to the pre-sentence report, the accused is 30-years-old. He was working prior to being remanded in custody, earning 180 tala per week. He is single.

“His mother remains supportive of him. His village mayor and church minister speak highly of his service to the village and to the church.

The accused accepted his actions to probation, he is a first offender,” stated Justice Tafaoimalo. 

The victim fell pregnant as a result of the offending. 

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“She says that her baby, who is now two months old, is a blessing to her family. Her parents say that even though it was hard to accept what happened to their daughter initially, forgiving the accused has allowed them to move forward, and enjoy their grandchild who they see as a blessing within their family. 

“The accused has not himself come to their family to apologise but they forgive him. The mother of the accused apologised and they have accepted her apology on behalf of the accused and his family.” 

Justice Tafaoimalo noted the age of the victim as an aggravating fact, and that there was a 14 year age disparity between her and the accused, at the time of offending.

“It is also aggravating that the victim fell pregnant as a result of the accused’s actions. She is a child herself and now has a child. Although the victim herself sees her child as a blessing, it is still considered an aggravating factor given her age, and the vulnerability that comes with it of which the accused took advantage,” Justice Tafaoimalo said. 

The Supreme Court Justice quoted recent Court of Appeal decision of AG v Niko Sefo (25 October 2018) where it was recognised that the purpose of this offence provision is twofold. 

“One is society’s recognition that a young woman under 16 years of age requires protection from herself. That is why liability is strict and her consent is not a defence. The other reason is to protect young women from predatory conduct by older males.

“The Court’s attitude to this kind of offence is well established, in cases where the age disparity between the accused and the victim is significant. The sentences imposed by the Court have usually been custodial,” added Justice Tafaoimalo. 

The accused does not get the benefit of an early guilty plea as this matter went to a defended hearing. The prosecution had submitted that a starting point of 18 months imprisonment is appropriate in this case, though probation recommends a community based sentence.

“For the accused today, it will be a custodial sentence. Having taken into account the aggravating features of this offending, I take the starting point for sexual connection at 16 months imprisonment. 

“I deduct four months for his previous good character evidenced by the references from the village mayor and church minister, two months for the apology by his mother to the family of the victim, and three months for his remorse expressed to probation and in Court, and personal circumstances in that he is looking after his elderly grandmother. The accused is convicted of sexual connection and sentenced to seven months imprisonment,” ordered Justice Tafaoimalo. 

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