A JUVENILE who burnt down the house of an elderly man over the issue of sorcery in Guadalcanal in 2013 has been sentenced on Friday to six months imprisonment.
The 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was charged with two counts, one of his is wilful and unlawful destruction and another is of arson.
He earlier pleaded guilty to the charge of willful and unlawful destruction but denied the arson charge.
The young lad from Guadalcanal decided to enter a guilty plea to the arson charge when the matter came before the court for trial.
The court heard that the charges against him stemmed from events that occurred at the neighbouring village of Samaria, home to the complainant on 12 October 2013.
It was heard that on that day, the accused left his village and went to the complainant’s village to exact revenge on the complainant for using black magic (sorcery) on the accused’s uncle, who became ill as a result.
The court was told after arriving at the complainant’s village, the accused cut down
four betel nut trees palms belonging to the complainant using a bush knife, therefore proceeding to set fire to the complainant’s house.
Principal Magistrate Edwin Saramo said there is no explanation as to how the accused came to be in possession of the bush knife but as for the dwelling house, it was described as a single bedroom dwelling house.
The fire destroyed the house completely.
No one was in the house at that time it was set on fire.
The complainant is a 54-year-old with no wife and children.
Mr Saramo when passing sentence said the belief in sorcery and supernatural phenomena is instilled in many Solomon Islanders from an early age and continues throughout their lives as a result of growing up and living among the traditional beliefs and practices of rural communities throughout the country.
“Whether we realise it or not, society conditions them, not only to believe in sorcery but also to respond to it in a way that is not entirely consistent with the ideals of the modern legal system,” Mr Saramo said.
“And if they break the law by behaving in exactly the way that society has conditioned him to behave, how much blame should the law attribute to them?” he asked.
“That no one should resort to criminal behaviour on a mere suspicion of sorcery is only an ideal.”
Mr Saramo said the reality is that belief in sorcery is still very strong in rural communities throughout the country and often influences the behaviour of those who hold the belief.
“Reality should not be discounted in favour of mere ideal.”
Mr Saramo noted that there was a delay in reporting this case to the police.
The incident occurred in 12 October 2014 but the complainant did not report it to the police until 3 November 2014, after a period of exactly one year and 23 days.
Mr Saramo said it is not an obstinate delay but it is still a delay nevertheless and certainly long enough for the accused to have moved on with his life.
He thought that the accused deserves a discount for the delay, which came about through no fault of his.
The complainant’s reason for the delay was that he was fearful for his life after he became aware that the accused’s group wanted to exact revenge on him.
Mr Saramo said the claim is remarkable, to say the least, because in his view a prompt report to the police would be more consistence with a person’s concern for his well-being.
After taking into consideration the mitigating factors and the aggravating factors, Mr Saramo imposed a starting point of 18 months for the arson charge.
He discounted six months of that sentence and suspended half of the 12 months imprisonment term.
As a result, the accused was sentenced to three months imprisonment for the wilful and unlawful destruction and another six months for the arson charge.
Those sentences were ordered to run concurrently meaning the accused
has only six months in prison to serve.
The sentence was back dated to when the accused was taken in police custody.
Public Solicitor’s lawyer Sarah Karani represented the juvenile while Public Prosecutor Nelson Dhita appeared for the State.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN