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14 YEARS FOR RAPE

20 June 2014
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Rapist told his actions are ‘cowardly’

A MAN who raped a disabled girl in her bedroom on two occasions was jailed for 14 years, yesterday.

And Justice Stephen Pallaras told the accused, who cannot be named because he was closely related to the victim, that his actions were cowardly.

“It is difficult to imagine more cowardly attacks than these on a young girl who was literally defenceless throughout her ordeal,” Justice Pallaras said while passing sentence.

The judge said he regarded these offences as one of the bad examples of the offence of rape as it contained a number of aggravating features.

“The aggravating features include the close family relationship, the age difference, the attack on a defenceless girl and the accused entered the victim’s home uninvited.”

The court earlier head the man raped the girl on two occasions – one in 2010 and another in 2011 in her bedroom at her parents’ house in their village in Western Province.

The victim was 18 while the accused was 46 years of age when the rape incidents occurred.

Justice Pallaras said that in their “Second Interim Report – sexual offences June 2013”, the Solomon Islands Law Reform Commission (SILRC) called for increases in penalties for various sexual offences so as to “make the Penal Code more responsive to the modern needs of the Solomon Islands.”

He said in that report the SILRC referred to the “alarming level of sexual violence” across the Solomon Islands.

“They found that most sexual offences committed against women are not reported to the police and the numbers actually prosecuted are smaller still.

“Despite these findings the SILRC concluded that the majority sentences passed for rape between 2003 and 2010 were ‘at the bottom end of the scale (three years)’ and that ‘compared to other countries in the region such as Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Fiji sentences for sexual offences in the Solomon Islands are low.””

Justice Pallaras said there has been until recently an unhappy combination of very high levels of sexual violence with historically low levels of punishment, particularly for rape.

He said in recent Court of Appeals rape matters, their Lordship in addressing the issue of sentencing for rape said:

“The presence, however, of more than one of those features of aggravating features may suggest that are departure from a starting point is appropriate.

“As indicated in Billam, where anyone or more of the aggravating features are present, ‘the sentence should be substantially higher than the figure suggested as the starting point. Where the sentencing judge feels constrained to depart from established guidelines he or she is entitled to do so if the circumstance of the case warrants such a departure. In that instance, it is simply necessary for the sentencing judge to give reasons for the departure from those guidelines.”

Justice Pallaras added the penalty for rape under section 142 of the Penal Code is imprisonment for life.

“While it might be stating the obvious, the existence of a penalty of this severity clearly establishes that the view of the legislature of the offence of rape is that it is one of the most serious offences in the criminal law.

“However, not all offences of rape can be dealt with in the same manner.

“While all rape offences are serious crimes, some are attended by features of aggravation which warrant them being considered as involving more criminality than others.”

He said in a decision handed down prior to the release of the SILRC Second Interim Report and other significant reports into sexual offence in Solomon Islands, the Court of Appeal recently decided that there was no need to increase the starting point for sentencing those who have been convicted of rape with a feature of aggravation.

The starting point is to be eight years imprisonment.

Justice Pallaras however, added an additional four years due to the additional and serious factors of this case.

“In my judgment, the circumstance of the present case warrants a departure from the starting point.

“The circumstances I refer to here are the physical and intellectual condition of the complainant rendering her totally defenseless against any attack upon her, the betrayal of trust by the accused in his position as a relative of the complainant.”

As a result 12 years was imposed for both counts.

However, 10 years for count two was to be served concurrently with count one which means the accused will serve a total of 14 years.

By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN
 
 
 


 





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