BY JENNIFER KUSAPA
A man has been handed a four-year jail sentence after court found him guilty of repeated sexual abuse of an underage girl.
The incidents took place on various dates in 2018.
Chief Justice Sir Albert Palmer made the sentence during the recent court circuit in Gizo last week.
The man who cannot be named for legal reasons was charged with the offence of persistent sexual abuse of a child under 15 years contrary to section 142(2) of the Penal Code as read with section 139 of the Penal Code as amended by the Penal Code (Amendment) (Sexual Offences) Act 2016 (“the Amendment Act 2016”).
Palmer said the offence is a new offence enacted under the Amendment Act 2016 and carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
“The maximum sentence of life imprisonment reflects the level of seriousness and concern with which this type of offence is considered and viewed in the community and the need to protect young girls from other men and themselves.
“Sentences imposed in this type of offending must reflect the level of culpability and accountability based on the circumstances of offending and the offender.”
He said in this case there were three instances of sexual abuse in the offending put together under this one offence and as such the offence targets the repeated nature of offending and while there may have been consent, it is still an abuse.
Palmer also highlighted one of the aggravating features is the age disparity of prisoner; at the time of the offending the prisoner was 21 years old while the victim was 14.
As an older person, there is an expectation of being responsible and accountable in protecting young girls from this type of offence. He has failed to exercise restraint and responsibility in the circumstances of this case. As well he was already in a de facto relationship with another woman and so should have known better to not seduce the victim, Palmer said.
He also said in the facts provided before the court, there were three instances of sexual contact like sexually harassing the victim and on two occasions sexual intercourse involved.
Therefore, Palmer, after considering the submissions made by the prosecution and defence and taking into account the prisoner’s early guilty plea, a first-time offender, his remorseful and with prospects of rehabilitation fairly good, reduced three years and another year for delay, thus leaving a total sentence of four years to be served.
Palmer also made an order that the period spent in pre-trial custody is to be deducted from the sentence.
Andrew Meioko of the office of the Director Public Prosecution appears on behalf of the crown while Lazarus Waroka of the Public Solicitor’s office represented the accused.