A man convicted of sexual connections involving two young girls living in his family has been sentenced to three years in prison.
Sentencing was handed down by Supreme Court Justice, Vui Clarence Nelson. Aleki Laki pleaded guilty to four counts of unlawful sexual connection with a dependent family member who are under the ages of 21.
According to Justice Vui, the two girls involved in this matter were at the time living with the defendant and his wife.
Justice Vui issued a suppression order on the publication of details of the victims, including the place of the offending.
“The unchallenged Police Summary of Facts says that in relation to the primary victim whom I will call Victim A between 1 October and 10 October 2015 while she was asleep with her cousins in the living room of the defendant’s house, the defendant approached her late at night,” noted Justice Vui.
He said Victim A tried to push him away but the defendant was too strong and had sex with the young girl.
“She was not successful in her efforts to push the defendant away.”
According to the Police Summary of Facts, there were two other incidents involving the defendant and Victim A.
The next one occurred between 1 November and 30 November 2015 and again between 1 December and 31 December 2015 again late at night and while the victim was sleeping.
The matter involving the second Victim B occurred on a different date in December, it was on Sunday, 20 December about 7:00 p.m.
“At that time, the victim was walking from her house on an inland road and met the defendant.”
“He asked her where she had gone and she said she went to get some clothes.”
“The defendant then said to her ‘a’o se kisi foi alu ai’.
“The victim responded if he was not satisfied with her aunty whom he was married to.”
The summary relates the defendant then went and sat on a coconut tree trunk and called the victim over and she obliged.
The victim went over, sat on his lap and he started kissing her and had sexual intercourse with her.
“Afterwards, the defendant dropped the victim off to where she was headed. She later returned to the defendant’s house.”
“The matter came to light and was reported to the Police around February 2016.”
“Following the investigation, the defendant was charged and initially entered not guilty pleas to the charges.”
“Subsequently, he changed plea to guilty when the matter came on for trial in April this year.”
“File also shows there was a period where a warrant was issued for the defendant’s non-appearance and this probably accounts for the delay in dealing with this matter, which dates back to 2015.”
“The purposes and principles of sentencing that apply to this case are firstly that the sentence should hold the defendant accountable for the harm he has done.”
“Also to promote in him responsibility and acknowledgment of the harm he has caused.”
“And to denounce the conduct that he engaged in with these young girls living in his family,” said Justice Vui.
The Supreme Court Justice noted the sentence should also deter the defendant from repeating this in the future and to send a message to all males living with young females and those under their care.
Justice Vui noted that based on the facts and circumstances of this matter, the prosecution has asked that sentence start at five years in prison.
They point to the aggravating factors, which includes a significant breach of trust.
“The defendant was a father figure to these girls. His position did not justify his using them as sexual play things.”
“Girls were both young and vulnerable and were subjected to advances by a man twice their age under whose care and protection they were living under.”
“The offending has had significant impact on the victims.”
“In their Victim Impact Reports for example, Victim B talks about how the memory of this still affects her relationship with her husband. Victim B is now married.”
“Victim A’s Victim Impact Report talks about how she lost her virginity to the defendant and how she felt relief when the Police investigation resulted in charges against him so that this behaviour against her could stop.”
“She still feels shame and embarrassment when she thinks about what happened.”
“Both girls expressed disappointment that no personal apology was made to either of them by the defendant, only the family to family reconciliation.”
“It is also notable that in relation to Victim A, there was some pre-meditation involved in the offending because this happened at night when the rest of the family had gone to sleep.”
“This is serious offending. Young girls under the care of older male relatives are entitled to feel safe and protected not only from external forces, but from family members. This kind of predatory behaviour is sadly becoming common in our country and it must stop.”
“Offenders must understand that the price for such behaviour is most likely imprisonment for the protection of young and vulnerable females in every family in our country,” stated Justice Vui.
He pointed out the cases of these two young girls are not alike.
“In relation to Victim B, it was only one off offending and was opportunistic in nature. In that the defendant saw an opportunity and took it.”
“For Victim A, it was multiple offending over a greater period of time.”
“The circumstances in relation to her are also more aggravating in that the offences were committed at night in the family home.
“I will take different approaches to each offending,” noted Justice Vui.
“In respect of the matter involving Victim A, which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years, I will start sentencing at half the maximum penalty namely seven years.”
Justice Vui noted the defendant’s good background of service he rendered to his family as outlined in the pre-sentence report.
“Supported by references from your faifeau and pulenuu, it is also clear you are a first offender. To reflect those factors I deduct six months.”
“There has been a family reconciliation, a gathering was held where you knelt and apologised to the aiga.”
“An indication of your true remorse for what you did. For those matters I will deduct a further six months that leaves a balance of six years in prison.”
“A substantial and appropriate penalty was imposed on you by the village council. That has been fully satisfied. I deduct one year for that, leaving a balance of five years.”
“For your guilty plea, that is also worthy of a significant deduction for the reason that it has saved the Court its valuable time and limited resources.”
“And most importantly, it has spared the young girls having to come to Court and talk about these things.”
“For that I will deduct a period of two years from the balance of sentence, leaves three years in prison.”
“No further adjustment needs to be made to your balance of sentence.”
“On the charges in relation to Victim A, you will be convicted and ordered to serve three years in prison each charge but terms concurrent.”
“On the one charge concerning Victim B, I adopt a start point of three years in prison and after deduction for mitigating factors an end sentence of 18 months is reached.”
“On that charge, you will be convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison also to be served concurrent to the other term.”
“End result is you will serve three years in prison for this matter. Any time spent in custody is to be deducted,” ordered Justice Vui.