Stepfather's 13 years' jail for indecently assaulting stepdaughter

A stepfather has been sentenced to 12 years’ jail for charges of indecently assaulting his eight-year-old step daughter. 

Supreme Court Justice Tologata Leilani Tuala-Warren sentenced the accused this week to Korama Tofala Eli, who appeared on two counts of sexual connection and one count of indecent assault. 

The name of his victim is subject to a permanent suppression order, which does not apply to the accused. 

The defendant was found guilty of all three charges earlier this year, after an assessor trial on 27 October. 

“According to the evidence, sometime between 1 January and 31 December 2019, the victim, who was [then] 8 years old went with her stepfather, the accused, to collect coconuts,” the sentencing remarks read. 

“When they were alone in the bushes, the accused put some leaves on the ground and told her to lie down and take off her pants.” 

The defendant performed sexual acts involving the eight- year-old child. 

“The accused is 34 years old, married with four children from 7 months to 8 years [old],” the remarks said. 

“He left school after Year 8 to accompany his father on carpentry jobs to support the family. He continued to do this until this offending.”  

Justice Tologata noted from the bench the accused claimed he was innocent of the charges and believed his mother-in-law instigated the charges against him.

“There has been no reconciliation as the victim is with [the Samoa Victim Support Group]. The father of the accused, however, apologised to the victim’s family.

“He is a first offender.

“The victim was eight years old. In her Victim Impact Report she speaks of when she vomited during the offending.  She says she was scared, was not happy with what the accused did, and does not want to see him again.  

“This offending was premeditated. He took her to collect coconuts in the bushes where they would be alone and she would be defenceless against him. 

“The victim was extremely vulnerable given her young age of 8. He knew this being her stepfather.

“The relationship between the victim and the accused [is that of a] stepfather [and] stepdaughter.”

Justice Tologata said the extent of the harm expressed by the victim had been taken into account in determining sentencing for the victim. 

But Justice Tologata said she took into account mitigating factors including the man’s previous character; his personal circumstances; and the remorse expressed including the apology made by his father. 

“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,” the Judge said. 

“The effects of this offending on the victim will no doubt last a lifetime. 

“The prosecution has submitted that a starting point [for sentencing] of 15 years’ imprisonment is appropriate. [The] defence counsel has recommended that a starting point of nine years imprisonment is an appropriate starting point.”

For both offences of sexual connection with a child under 12 years, the Judge found the accused would be sentenced to 13 years. But the Judge found that the sentences should be served concurrently. 

For his conviction of performing an indecent act on a child under 12 he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment, also to be served concurrently.

Time spent the defendant has already spent in custody will be deducted.


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