Two young men both from Savaii were in tears outside Court when Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren found them both not guilty for sexual connection with a girl under 16 years.
Speaking to the Samoa Global News, one of the defendants says, the whole ordeal has been a lesson for him, and he will never again be in a relationship with a girl if he is in doubt of her age.
The incidents occurred in 2015 and 2016, when both defendants confirmed having sex with the victim, thinking she was way over 16 years old. One defendant thought he was in a “boyfriend-gilrfriend” relationship with the girl.
The two young men were charged after the parents of the same girl brought a complaint against both of them to police, saying their daughter was only 16 at the time. The pair denied the charges saying it was consensual, and that the young girl had told them she was 19.
In Samoa sexual connection with a girl 16 years and under is an offense that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. It is not a defense to not know or to think the girl was older, however, the Law does provide an exception clause available to young men under 21 years of age, but only if they had taken reasonable steps to find out if the girl was over 16.
In delivering her decision last week, Justice Tafaoimalo found that both defendants thought the victim was over 16 years.
“In Anzac’s case, the commission of the act occurred about 5 months after Anzac and the complainant started texting. Anzac asked her age and her response was she is in Year 13 and is 19 years old. I find that in the circumstances, these are reasonable steps taken by Anzac who was 20 years old at the time, to find out whether the complainant was of or over the age of 16,” the ruling states.
For the other defendant, Nikolao, Justice Tafaoimalo says he believed that the complainant was ‘matua’ because she had told him that she stays home to look after her mother.
“For the foregoing reasons, both Anzac and Nikolao have proved on a balance of probabilities, that they were both under 21 years when they had sex with the complainant;
“..before they had sex, both had taken reasonable steps to find out the age of the complainant, both believed on reasonable grounds that the complainant was over 16 when they had sex with her, and the complainant consented to having sex with both of them,” said Justice Tafaoimalo in her written decision.
Initially the complaint was lodged by the parents of the victim thinking that their daughter was never in a relationship and the two defendants took advantage of her being around the Salelologa Wharf to play volleyball.
Mothers and family members of the defendants in Court to support them said they are relieved that the two young men are able to walk free, but they have definitely learnt a valuable lesson, and will move on with life now that the prolonged Court process has finally ended.