Repeat sex offender sentenced to 11 years for rape of 6 year old

joyetter@samoanews.com

Apia, SAMOA — A repeat sex offender has been sentenced to 11 years in jail after being convicted of having sexual intercourse with a six year old girl. Fifty-year-old Ueni Semeatu of Afega faced one count of sexual connection which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Supreme Court Justice Mata Tuatagaloa handed down sentencing this week and according to the Police Summary of Facts (police report), the victim was six years old at the time of the offending, which occurred on November 10, 2013. (Samoa News notes that it’s unclear why the matter is just now coming before the court for sentencing.)

Justice Tuatagaloa stated that on the night of the incident the victim was home with the defendant’s younger children. The police report says the defendant kissed the victim and then performed oral sex and then asked the young girl to suck his penis, however she refused.

The police report further says the defendant then proceeded to have sexual intercourse with the six year old and asked the victim if she was enjoying what he was doing. “The victim responded ‘no’ and cried because she was in pain but the defendant ignored her and continued until he was satisfied; afterwards the defendant told the victim to go shower.”

Tuatagaloa pointed out that the pre-sentence report was prepared by probation services without the availability of the summary of facts. The PSR provides the educational and family background of the defendant. It also notes if there has been any reconciliation with the victim or the victim’s family and any previous convictions that the defendant may have.

According to the PSR the defendant and his family are now living in Vaiusu. The Justice noted the defendant has previous convictions of similar offending in 2003 and 2008 where he had sexual intercourse with minors.

Fife Ioane, who was prosecuting, recommended a 20-year sentence noting the vulnerability of the victim; impact of the offending on the victim; age disparity; premeditation and breach of trust as the victim and her mother were living with the defendant and his family.

Defense Counsel, Pa’u Mulitalo submitted that although he’s mindful of the defendant’s previous similar convictions stressed the need for rehabilitation for this defendant, because despite the defendant having been incarcerated twice for committing the same offenses it has not deterred the defendant from again committing the same offense the third time.

Mulitalo during sentencing stated that rehabilitation could still be done while the defendant is incarcerated and asks for a shorter incarceration of two years and a longer supervision term of three years to facilitate full rehabilitation.

Tuatagaloa agreed with Mulitalo that the defendant needs specialized treatment and therapy by trained professionals and that rehabilitation plays such a vital role to lessen reoffending thereby reducing the crime rate for the safety of people and society in general.

However the question arises whether these services are available for the defendant. “Is society especially, young girls, safe if the defendant is placed on supervision to undergo rehabilitation as submitted by his counsel? I am not aware of any specialized treatment programs and therapy by trained professionals to provide such services here in Samoa or any facilities (not prison) to keep or house these people while undergoing rehabilitation.”

Given the lack of specialized treatment and trained professionals, counsel for the defendant in his supplementary submissions then strongly advocated for a longer custodial sentence with a starting point between 14 years and 20 years imprisonment.

According to Tuatagaloa the victim was subjected to violence and fear and there was premeditation. Also the age gap of 45 years shows the level of subjugation and powerlessness the victim was placed under and the offending on the very young victim was intolerable and an act of cowardice. “Offending of this nature on very young victim will always have an impact upon young victims’ lives in years to come.”

Justice Tuatagaloa said with the lack of specialized treatment, given the circumstances of this offending and the previous convictions of the defendant for similar offending, “it is my view that a longer custodial sentence is most appropriate.”

“The defendant is very dangerous to society especially around young girls. He is said to have ten children and if any are girls, his own daughters are very much at risk,” the Justice said.

The defendant was sentenced to 11 years and 6 months; his name should also be entered on the Sex Offenders Register when established.

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