A 14 YEAR-OLD boy who confesses to having unlawful sex with a five year-old girl in March this year in Malaita has been sentenced to one year and 10 months imprisonment.
However, the Juvenile as ‘JP’ will only serve six months in jail while the remaining balance of 16 months jail term has been suspended for the period of 24 months.
Principal Magistrate, Felix Hollison had also directed the Correctional Service of Solomon Islands (CSSI) to must ensure that JP be given special care and attention whilst serving his imprisonment term, and if possible, he must be segregated from the adult inmates and prisoners.
“After the completion of the 6 months incarceration, the defendant shall be committed to the care of his parents (father and mother) and he shall reside with them in north Malaita in the Malaita Province or to any person who is deemed fit and suitable,” Magistrate Hollison further directed.
The young teenager who cannot be named due to gag orders because he and the victim are both minors, had pleaded guilty to one count of sexual intercourse with a child under 15.
Magistrate Hollison when dealing with this matter during a court circuit in Malaita said he will not commit this matter for trial or sentencing in the High Court but will deal with it in the juvenile court, pursuant to the sections of the Juvenile Offenders Act.
The incident in this matter happened at a village in North Malaita in March this year.
Both JP and the victim RT resided together in the same village at the time of the offending.
The court had heard that on 14 March this year, between 1pm and 2pm, the victim’s mother left for garden and leave her in the care of her aunt.
On the day of the offence, the victim was instructed by her aunt to fetch fire at JP’s kitchen as she was busy preparing food.
The victim went to fetch fire at JP’s kitchen and JP was there.
JP then invited the victim to their dwelling house where he committed the offence on the victim.
Before handing his sentence, Magistrate Hollison considered the maximum sentence of this offence which is life imprisonment, the age disparity between JP and the victim, the young age of the victim, and the physical and psychological effects on the victim.
“The victim was only five years old and she is very innocent tender and immature and she did not deserve to experience such a crime at a very young age,” Magistrate Hollison said.
He said the sexual encounter had physical and health effects on the victim.
“More so, the experience will affect her psychologically and may haunt her for the rest of her life.”
Magistrate Hollison also took into account JP’s early guilty plea, he is a first time offender, he cooperated well with the police, reconciliation and compensation and his personal circumstances and chances of rehabilitation.
Having considered the relevant factors and the nature of the offending which is very serious he said he is of the view that the magnitude of offending warrants an immediate custodial sentence which is still an available option under section 16(j) of the JOA [CAP 14].
He then imposed a starting point of 48 months or four years imprisonment but then had it deducted to reflect the mitigating factors.
“In this present case, despite the fact the defendant is a juvenile, he was the one who initiated the offence by leading the victim into their dwelling house.
“He took advantage of the vulnerability, innocence and immaturity of the victim who is only five years old, and he instructed her to enter the house and remove her clothes which she unwittingly did,” Magistrate Hollison further added.
He said he took note of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) because of the fact that both the defendant and the victim were juveniles at the time of the commission of the offence earlier this year which their “best interests” must be considered.
Magistrate Hollison also added that in 2016, Penal Code Sexual Offences Amendment Bill 2016 was passed, a legislative measure to contain sexual violence in this country.
He said the courts including the appellate courts in this jurisdiction have also take judicial notice of the increase of sexual related cases in Solomon Islands.
“The protection and safety of the vulnerable members of our society and the country especially women, girls and children can only be guarantee if the necessary laws that are in place are applied and enforced fairly and consistently in ensuring that justice is not only achieved but must also be seen to be done.
“Thus, I am obliged to issue a penalty that is proportionate with the severity of the offence.
“This present case would definitely attract a higher imprisonment term if the defendant was an adult when he committed the offence earlier in March this year.”
Godfrey Male from the Public Solicitor’s Office represented JP while Public Prosecutor Selwyn Vaike appeared for the Crown.
By ASSUMPTA BUCHANAN BONGIDANI