- Young sex offender told to stay out of trouble
- ‘No offender is too young under law’
- Gov’t urged to rehabilitate offenders
Young sex offender told to stay out of trouble
A 15-YEAR-OLD male who confessed to sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl in February this year in Honiara was given a bond sentence yesterday.
R.I.R was sentenced after pleading guilty to the charge of having sexual intercourse with a child under 15 years of age, contrary to section 139 (1) (a) of the Penal Code (Amendment) (Sexual Offences) Act 2016.
This is an offence that did not involve penile penetration but the insertion of a finger into the victim’s private part.
Principal Magistrate Augustine Aulanga described this as a unique case involving digital penetration done by a juvenile.
He said that he could not find any local case authority on this new legislation that is equivalent to the present case and therefore had decided to sentence this case on its own set of facts, taking into account the provisions of the Juvenile Offender’s Act.
Mr Aulanga said before the enactment of this legislation, the act of digital penetration or indecent use of other body parts such as a finger for example, on the victim is an offence of indecent assault.
“However, this is no longer the case,” Aulanga said.
“As of 2016, that act now amounts to sexual intercourse under section 136D (2) (1) of the Act.
“Since the young offender herein is a juvenile, his sentence will be considered and determined by the Juvenile Offender’s Act,” he added.
The incident happened between 8am and 3pm when the victim was playing downstairs of their dwelling house occupied by the family of the accused.
It was heard that during the course of the play, the victim entered into one of the rooms and R.I.R was in that room.
R.I.R told the victim to remain quiet and then used his finger to prod the victim’s private part.
The victim felt pain and reported to her mother what R.I.R did to her.
Her mother and aunt reported the matter to police.
Following the indecent assault, compensation was paid to the victim’s family by the accused’s father.
Mr Aulanga said that the sexual act inflicted upon the victim involves the insertion of the finger into her private body part.
“This is unthinkable and degrading to a little four-year-old child.
“It robbed her of her innocence and has the potential to distort her mental development,” he said.
He added that whatever penalty that tries to redress this incident; one cannot bring the victim to her first state of mind.
“I also consider that age difference and the very young age of the victim when she was sexually assaulted.
“She is still regarded as a baby at the time of the incident and should not be sexually abused in that way.
“I also considered the pain suffered by the victim as a result of the sexual assault which must be considered in this sentence,” Aulanga said.
He said this case involves a young offender who was just two years from being regarded as a ‘child’ at the time of the offending, as defined under section 2 of the Juvenile Offenders Act.
“Because of his tender age, the court must be sensitive and give careful attention to the offender’s age at the time of criminality and advocate the principles of youth justice for purposes of sentence.
“This, therefore, means that incarceration should only be considered as a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time for serious and grave crimes,” Aulanga further added.
R.I.R was sentenced under the provisions of section 16 of the Juvenile Offenders for him to enter into his bond to appear if called upon for sentence to be imposed on him.
The conditions of his bond are that he must be of good behaviour and must not commit any further offence for a period of two years.
If R.I.R does not re-offend during the operational period, this condition will cease to operate on 12 May 2022.
The juvenile with the assistance of his father is required to write a letter of apology to the victim and her family within seven days.
The condition also include that, before May 12 next year and May 12, 2022, the juvenile’s father must also provide a Report to the Central Magistrates’ Court on his assessment on supervision of his son’s behaviour during the two year operational period.
Rodney Manebosa of Public Solicitor’s Office represents the juvenile while Public Prosecutor Hellen Naqu appeared for the Crown.
‘No offender is too young under law’
PRINCIPAL Magistrate Augustine Aulanga says that sexual abuse of children even if the offender is very young is very serious.
He made this bench remark yesterday when sentencing a 15-year-old male who sexually assaulted a four-year-old girl in February in Honiara.
“It can have a profound impact on the physical and mental health that can be long-lasting on the victim,” Aulanga said.
Aulanga added that other consequential impacts of sexual assault on the victim are many and very damaging.
“These are just a glimpse of this scourge and pathetic reality of sexual violence.”
Aulanga said before the enactment of the Penal Code (Amendment) (Sexual Offences) Act 2016, the rate of sexual violence against females in the Solomon Islands was alarming and depressing that Parliament saw it fit to control this immoral endemic with this legal regime.
He said this law then becomes the legal mechanism to voice our zero-tolerance attitude against the barbaric acts of sexual assaults or any form of sexual innuendos against the vulnerable and defenseless members of our communities.
“It is therefore pertinent that the Court must give effect to the intention of this Act when it comes to sentencing of sexual offenders,” he said.
Gov’t urged to rehabilitate offenders
GOVERNMENT has been urged to consider establishing justice reinvestment and rehabilitation programs applicable to our own cultural setting as part of its national crime prevention strategies.
Principal Magistrate Augustine Aulanga made the call yesterday when handing down a bond sentence to a 15-year-old male who sexually assaulted a four-year-old girl in February.
“If we are serious in combating crime, it is time our government should consider establishing justice reinvestment and rehabilitation programs applicable to our own cultural setting as part of its national crime prevention strategies,” Mr Aulanga said.
“The sooner, the better,” he added.
He said the theory that imprisonment for non-grave crimes gives satisfaction to the victim and the public, and creates fear to the potential juvenile offender when it comes to sentencing lacks empirical scientific evidence.
“It is devoid, flawed, and misconceived.
“In fact, scientific research uncovers that incarceration of juveniles has only temporary but not long term solutions.
“In the long run, the host country will come to bear the long term consequences such as; the uncontrolled rate of recidivism, stigmatization, increase juvenile delinquencies, increase the commission of sophisticated and gang crimes, decaying of societal values and norms, and unemployment as the price for the incarceration of juveniles at a very young age,” Aulanga further added.
He said attention should instead be diverted to what the society should do to avoid the spill-off effects of recidivism when juveniles grow up and become undeterred hard-core criminals as a result of the deleterious effects of incarceration.
“In other words, it is a situation when a country reached a tipping-point where youth crimes and social disorder have out blown its crime control mechanisms as a result of deep resentment to incarceration.
“In my view, devising of appropriate strategies and mechanisms for the supervision of juvenile behaviours during and after their encounter with the law to break the vicious circle of going back to their old ways is an effective way for dealing with juvenile offenders in our country.
“Today, we stand and witness some of our notorious and hard-core young offenders (who were sent to very lengthy periods in prison at a very tender age) unfortunately now unable to rehabilitate themselves despite numerous imprisonment sentences from the Court.”
Aulanga said this is because of the criminogenic effects permanently affixed to their behaviour due to incarceration and the lack of proper parental supervision at homes.
He said further studies have also found there is no particular deterrent effect in receiving a prison sentence for juveniles who had not previously been sentenced to prison.
“If there is any lesson or takeaways from these findings, for cases involving juvenile offenders, it is time we should recalibrate and focus on building community support for rehabilitation and reintegration, and not building prisons.”
Aulanga said we should focus on restorative justice mechanisms that would bring true healing and restorativeness between the offender and the victim rather than resolving the problem through the lens of retribution.
“Lest we forget, juvenile offenders are also different from adult offenders in their neurobiology.
“Their rapid brain development into adolescence normally affects their emotional regulation and response inhibition, making them more prone to taking risks and particularly susceptible to committing a crime without realising its consequences.”