Father Sentenced to 20 Years for Raping his 13 Year Old Daughter

“He has a previous conviction for incest in relation to his eldest daughter. It would strongly suggest that he has a tendency towards this behaviour" Tuala-Warren, J.

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Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren handed down a 20 year sentence for a male of Faleasiu who pleaded guilty to three counts of rape against his 13 year old daughter.

According to the summary of facts accepted by the accused, Rokesi Ioelu forcibly had sexual intercourse with his daughter on 3 separate occasions between March and April 2019.

He covered her face with a sheet on all three occassions and on the second, he threatened to send her to live elsewhere when she refused to go into the bedroom with him.

The 49 year old father of six was previously convicted of incest towards his older daughter in 2013. He had been out on parole for that offence when he raped his younger daughter.

The probation division of the Courts reported that he did not provide any information about the offending except to say that he is remorseful and regrets his actions.

The sentencing report stated the young victim had not been attending school, and was instead staying home to do family chores. She was the youngest of her father’s daughters.

In delivering her sentence, Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren said aggravating features relating to the offender had been considered.

“He has a previous conviction for incest in relation to his eldest daughter. It would strongly suggest that he has a tendency towards this behaviour”.

“He has breached his parole because he has reoffended. His parole has been recalled and he is serving his imprisonment term which ends in October 2020”.

Justice Tafaoimalo also highlighted aggravating factors in relation to the offending.

“This is a gross breach of trust by the accused. The victim is his biological daughter . He committed the offence in a family environment where she is entitled to grow up safe and protected by her father from this sort of behaviour”.

“This close familial relationship is a significant aggravating factor”.

“I am hard pressed to find a closer familial relationship than that of parent and child”.

Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren.

“Quite apart from the fact that the accused breached his legal duties as a father, in our Samoan culture there is a covenant of va tapuia between a parent and child”.

“The accused has violated this covenant of trust and respect between him and his daughter”.

Justice Tafaoimalo said the offending was premeditated and the accused had actively sought opportunities to be alone with the victim.

“The victim was particularly vulnerable by reason not only of her age but also by reason of the relationship she had to the accused”.

“He was the head of the family with authority over all family members”.

Justice Tafaoimalo said the extent of the harm to the victim had also been considered.

“No doubt she is confused and traumatized by her father’s actions”.

In determining the term of imprisonment previous decisions of Samoa’s Supreme Court were considered.

Tafaoimalo referred to a 2008 decision by Justice Rapi Vaai Police v Pauesi (9 May 2008) that referred to the importance of sentencings being a deterrant to horrific behaviour in our homes.

In considering the sentence for sexual offences, particularly rape, the primary consideration is a term of imprisonment. There should be an element of deterrence to reflect the gravity of the offence to punish the offender, to deter the offender and to deter other like-minded people. The sentence is also to convey condemnation by society of such criminal conduct.

Justice Tuala-Warren held that this was not only a case of rape, but also a case of incest – noting that the accused was not charged with incest.

In relation to incest, Tafaoimalo referred to a 2016 decision by Acting Chief Justice Vui Clarence Nelson, who has been calling for a Sex Offenders Register for several years now.

This kind of offending is also an infringement of the customary va tapuia between a father and a daughter. It results from a father taking advantage of his position in the household to satisfy personal lust”. Police v EF [2016] WSSC 159.

Acting Chief Justice Vui Clarence Nelson has been calling for a Sex Offenders Register in Samoa.

The sentencing also referred to the 2017 decision by Justice Vui where a father had also raped his biological daughter (Police v AV [2017] WSSC 130) Nelson J said;

There is no question such conduct must be soundly and clearly condemned as not acceptable to our society and that a strong deterrent sentence of imprisonment is required as a personal deterrent to the accused and as a general deterrent to all fathers who would fail their parental duty to love and nurture their offspring in this fashion.

Justice Vui had told the defendant that, “…sentence …must mark the significance of the cultural taboos that you have broken”.

Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani showed concern at the continued prevalence of rape before the Courts in Samoa, despite high sentences of imprisonment being imposed.

“It would seem like its prevalence has not been altered significantly. Therefore the Court must continue to impose high sentences of imprisonment as deterrence for this offending until such time that we see a noticeable reduction in sexual offending in our community and in particular, within our families”.

“This is yet another case which highlights the prevalence of sexual offending in our community and sadly within families”, added Tafaoimalo.

“Today the Court will impose a sentence which denounces and deters this type of offending, and provides for the interests of the victim of this offending”.

“The rape of a child by a parent violates every standard of decency in our society. It cannot and should not be tolerated,” added Tafaoimalo.

A recent nation-wide study by Samoa’s Human Rights Commission found that 20% of respondents said they had been raped in their lifetime, while 10% said they had been raped by a family member.

Prosecution led by Lucy Sio and Quentin Sauaga of the Attorney General’s Office submitted a starting point of 25 years imprisonment as appropriate.

Defence Counsel Afamasaga Michael Soonalole had recommended 19 years imprisonment is an appropriate starting point.

Justice Tafaoimalo referred to rape bands previously set by the Court of Appeal in 2013 Key v Police [2013] WSCA with short descriptors as to circumstances for which each band would be appropriate to apply.

(a) Rape band one: 8 – 10 years (Appropriate where the offending is at the lower end and where there is an absence of aggravating features or their presence is very limited);
(b) Rape band two: 9 – 15 years (Where violence and premeditation are moderate);
(c) Rape band three: 14 – 20 years (Offending where there are aggravating features at a relatively serious level); and
(d) Rape band four: 19 years to life (As well as the aggravating features in Band 3 it is likely to consist of multiple offending over considerable time. Repeat family offending would fall into this band).

In placing this case into rape band 4, Justice Tafaoimalo said, “As stated in R v AM and reiterated in Key v Police, I bear in mind that ‘..what is required is an evaluation of all the circumstances’ and that a mechanistic view is not appropriate’.”

“In assessing culpability to determine a starting point in the case before me now, I take into account the gross breach of trust, the closeness of the familial relationship, the violation of the cultural covenant of va tapuia between a father and a daughter, the extent of premeditation in this offending, the extent of the harm to the victim and her young age. It is also repeat offending against a family member. He raped the victim 3 times. I find that these are aggravating features at a very serious level”.

Tuala-Warren accepted prosecution’s starting point of 25 years and added 1 year imprisonment for his previous conviction, taking the starting point to 26 years.

She deducted 10 months for the reconciliation and approximately 20% for his belated guilty pleas.

“The accused is convicted of 3 counts of rape and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. This sentence is to commence at the end of his current imprisonment term”.

Justice Tuala-Warren reiterated that a permanent name suppression order existed for the victim, which does not apply to the accused.


Sina Retzlaff

Tuiloma Lemalu Sina Retzlaff is a Certified Accountant and Accredited Mediator by profession. She is author of the short story Unborn Child and is a Gender Based Violence Research Fellow.
Sina Retzlaff