THE Director of Public Prosecution Ronald Bei Talasasa says the maximum penalty for indecent assault charge is not enough especially when it involves very young children.
Mr Talasasa said this on Tuesday when asked to comment on the recent high rate of sexual offences coming up in the courts against very young children.
Lately a number of accused have been sentenced in the Honiara Magistrates’ Court and High Court for indecent assault/sexual offences on very young children.
Most of the accused are related to victims such as uncles, grandfathers, fathers and distant relatives.
The maximum penalty for the indecent assault under the Penal Code is only five years imprisonment.
The Penal Code Section 141. (1) Reads, Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults any woman or girl is guilty of a felony, and shall be liable to on females imprisonment for five years.
(2) It is no defence to a charge for an indecent assault on a girl under the age of fifteen years to prove that she consented to the act of indecency.
(3) Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman or girl, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman or girl, or whoever intrudes upon the privacy of a woman or girl by doing an act of a nature likely to offend her modesty, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and shall be liable to imprisonment for one year.
“I always believe that courts have the responsibility to impose appropriate punishments on convicted offenders,” Mr Talasasa said.
“It is the criminality that must be punished, that is, the offending or the wrong done must attract a stiffer penalty.”
The DPP said that the Penal Code must be reviewed and he is content that the Law Reform Commission has embarked on that.
“I am particularly concerned that the punishment provided by law for indecent assault offences carries a maximum of 5 years.
“That is not enough when you take into account the changing circumstance of the victim and the type of modus operandi (offending) employed.
“Victims these days include infants and it is not only that society abhors such acts of barbarism but that the offenders who are humans themselves, no longer have a human sense of responsibility and care,” Mr Talasasa said.
When asked if the sexual offences against children increased or decreased compared to last year, he said the trend increases and so when a comparison to the number of cases reported and dealt with last year is done, one sees a marked increase of the number in 2014.
He added that the increase of population and migration from the rural to urban centres will continue to contribute, to a certain extent, increases in anti-social behaviour and criminal activities.
“Solomon Islands will lose out as a flourishing and prosperous nation if this is not contained immediately.
“The criminal justice agencies continue to play their role in combating crime.”
Mr Talasasa said the Government continues to take leadership at all public sectors and so as churches and NGOs in their various settings.
“Despite, the issues that confront communities are complex and more ought to be done to identify long term solutions and act to arrive at such.
“Those of us in the administration of justice must think ahead of our time and be more sophisticated to combat crime,” Mr Talasasa said.
In addition he said besides the delay in pronouncing judgments in one or two cases, does not help in our pursuit of justice.
He said if prosecutions and lawyers do their best to prepare and present cases in court, they are being failed when delivery of judgments is delayed or reasons for verdicts are not given in time.
“It is time for courts to be a bit more proactive and speed up the adjudication of matters.”
He referred to one case in the Magistrate’s Court that whilst a verdict has been given (29 October 2014), no reasons to date have been published, even though his office sent written notices asking for that.
“We need to see the basis for the verdict so as to draw up a realistic petition of appeal or even to consider whether to appeal or not.”
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN