Trio sentenced for rape of underage girl in Vanuatu

Three Paama boys in Vanuatu who were found guilty of committing sexual offences with an underage girl, have escaped jail terms after Supreme Court Judge, Stephen Harrop suspended their sentences, the Vanuatu Post reports.

The victim was first raped by one of the boys when she was only 11 years old and the others continued to sexually violate her until she was 14 years old on different occasions and dates according to the court.

The convicted offenders, Bruce Sam 15, Ken Houman 16 and Malon Heru 18 committed the offences separately, thus were prosecuted in separate cases.

The youngest of the boys, Bruce Sam was charged with three counts of unlawful sexual intercourse in 2012 for which he gave a no guilty plea on 2013.

But eight days before the sentencing on 10 July, he changed to a guilty plea.

“Because the victim was 14 at the time, under section 97 (2) of the Penal Code, the maximum penalty is five years’ imprisonment for each of those charges,” stated Justice Harrop.

According to the sentencing statement, Sam committed unlawful sexual intercourse with the victim in three separate occasions in 2012.

Harrop firstly pointed out that because the victim was 14 at the time, under section 97 (2) of the Penal Code, the maximum penalty is five years’ imprisonment for each of those charges.

But after considering the mitigating factor including the offender’s age, he stated that Sam was only 15 years old and can’t be dealt with like an adult.

According to section 54 of the penal code, a person under the age of 16 years is not to be sentenced to imprisonment unless no other punishment is appropriate.

While the case had been longstanding for 2 and a half years, the Judge pointed out the advantage is Sam had not offended again hence he was sentence to 250 hours of community work.

Ken Houman who was 16 years old during when he committed the offences was sentenced for one count of unlawful sexual intercourse contrary to section 97 (2) of the Penal Code and one count of indecency with a young person contrary to section 98A.

The victim was 14 years old during the time of the offending. Houman who will turn 19 December this year was sentenced to a total of 18 months imprisonment for both charges which was suspended for 18 months.

Justice Harrop who handed down the sentencing at Liro, Paama on July 8, said the long period between plea and sentencing itself makes it unusual and unfortunate since the sentencing should have happened on December 2013.

The maximum penalty for indecency is 10 years imprisonment whereas the maximum penalty of unlawful sexual intercourse where the girl is between 13 and 15 is only 5 years imprisonment.

According to the sentencing statement, the offence started one night when the victim was lured by the boy to a house to get a mobile phone.

After that night Houman continued to be sexually intimate with the girl until it came to the notice of the chiefs and the police were notified.

Houman then admitted to the charges and gave and early guilty plea.

Justice Harrop pointed out that he should be given the starting point of about 3 ½ years imprisonment sentence.

The sentence was deducted to a total sentence of 18 months imprisonment which was suspended for 18 months.

But Harrop further stated that with a suspended sentence, the 16 year old would suffer no real consequence other than the conviction which in itself may have consequences so it is appropriate that a community work sentence is impose as well.

Therefore Houman was sentenced to 150 hour community work.

The oldest of the three boys, Malon Heru who was 18 during the time of the offending pleaded guilty to two offences which were committed sometime in 2010 in respect to the same girl.

The first count is attempted sexual intercourse without consent for which the maximum penalty is life imprisonment.

The other offence is that of act of indecency with a young person, which carries ten years imprisonment.

According to Justice Harrop, if there had not been complaint about sexual conduct by Ken Houman and Bruce Sam towards the same victim there may never have been a complaint raised against Heru.

In 2010 Heru who is a youth leader of the Presbyterian Church asked the victim to help him look for a lost Vt100 coin in an abandoned house. It was then that he attempted to rape her.

On other separate occasions Houman committed acts of indecency with the victim who was 12 years old at that time.

He was imposed with a 12 months imprisonment which was suspended so a 300 hours of community work can be imposed so he can give back to his community like the two other offenders.

“Here, as your conduct over the last five years has shown, you can live in the community without committing further offences, so the community does not need that protection from you,” Harrop told Houman during the sentencing.

Meanwhile the three boys have conducted a joint custom ceremony to the victim which include a pig, 18 kava root stems, 20 mats and Vt18,000.

The custom ceremony was taken into consideration by the judge in their sentencing.

“Under the law here in Vanuatu, the Court must, and so i will, take into account the custom reconciliation ceremony because it is an important part of Vanuatu culture and reflects an appropriate, meaningful, apology made by you and your family in response to the victim’s family,” said Judge Harrop.

Vanuatu Daily Pos

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