Principal Magistrate Felix Hollison delivered the stern warning yesterday when sentencing the Australian missionary, Rev. Kevin Rietveld, 72, to three years imprisonment yesterday.
Rietveld was sentenced after pleading guilty to seven counts of indecent assault.
He indecently assaulted four local underage girls between 2010 and 2012 when he was the Director of SWIM and a pastor and reverend in the Mission.
“Solomon Islands is not a safe haven for sexual predators, paedophiles or sex offenders generally and such people will face the music should they be caught in this jurisdiction,” Mr Hollison said.
He added that people who are responsible for such crimes must be punished for their actions and hence, it is this considered view that the total sentence reached in the present case is the appropriate aggregate sentence.
He said the sentence reflects the court’s denunciation of the despicable actions of the defendant and more generally sexual related offences.
“In essence, it also reflects the overall criminality of the offences committed over a span of two years against four female victims,” Mr Hollison said.
Mr Hollison said sexual related offences are unfortunately becoming prevalent and increasing in the Solomon Islands and must be condemned in the strongest terms by the Courts.
“On that same note, I wish to unequivocally point out that there is no place for sexual predators and paedophiles in Solomon Islands and it is my role to issue a sentence with stern warning that resonate well both locally and abroad.
“It is pertinent for me to remind the people of Solomon Islands and also foreigners who come to the shores of this country that the criminal law protects the right of young children,” Mr Hollison said.
Females and young children are vulnerable and older citizens are obliged to care for them.
“The government of the day ought to take note of this despicable threat of sexual violence.
“........and it must work together with the public and private sectors, non-governmental organizations, church and religious groupings, and the people of this country as a whole to combat and contain sexual violence against our children and more especially females.”
“This is indeed a sad case for Solomon Islands which speaks volume of the dire need to protect the vulnerable people in our communities, schools, villages, work places, government institutions and agencies, universities, and also in our churches and religious organizations from sexual related offences,” Mr Hollison further added.
Mr Hollison said the fact that all the victims were below or around the age of 15, at the time of the offending aggravates the case.
The court heard that Rietveld held the position as Director of Small Workshop in Mission (SWIM), pastor and reverend in the mission at the time of the offending.
The accused was the Director of SWIM from 1998 to 2012 and amongst other program, the Mission he worked for provided financial support for the education of children who needed financial.
The court also heard that all the complainants or the victims were young girls who were financially supported by the Mission.
SWIM is based at the Lungga area in East of Honiara.
“Whilst the intention of the Mission was genuine in assisting the needy and those who cannot afford basic health and educational services apart from its pastoral duties.
“It transpired that Mr Rietveld took advantage of that situation or abused that position.
“The actions of the defendant are shameful and a clear breach of trust on his part.
“He was a pastor and a highly educated person, and a parent himself and should have known better, and also he should have controlled his selfish desires,” Mr Hollison said.
The court heard Rietveld committed the offence when his wife was not present at home.
Before handing down the sentence, Mr Hollison took into account the accused’s guilty pleas, for being a first time offender, he cooperated well with the police, his old age, his health and that he is a highly regarded pastor.
“Mr Rietveld and his wife greatly involved in pastoral care for their church, and humanitarian aid, assisting both financially, sometimes from their personal income.
“The good deed that the defendant had done is reflected by various representations and letters by various people and organizations both locally and abroad that were attached in the addendum to the submissions for the defendant,” he said.
He took into account the fact that Mr Rietveld had rendered important services and assistance for many local people during his time here in Solomon Islands and also in Australia.
He then imposed various sentences ranges from six months to 12 months which resulted in an head sentence of four years, two months.
After taking into account the totality principle and the crushing effect the sentence may have on the accused, the issue of delay and other circumstances, another 14 months was deducted.
This resulted in a sentence of three years imprisonment.
The time Rietveld spent in custody was taken into account.
Public Solicitor’s lawyer Rodney Manebosa appeared for the accused while the Director of Public Prosecutions Rachel Olutimayin appeared for the Crown.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN