The Supreme Court has sentenced a 59-year-old man to jail term for sexual intercourse and acts of indecency on a girl living with a disability.

Pakoa Sam Andrew from Tongoa pleaded guilty on the two charges after the Court heard from the Prosecution that Andrew had abused the victim for a period of three years before he was caught by the father of the victim who is the complainant in the criminal case.

The victim has a severe physical and mental disability and is confined to a wheelchair. She cannot speak and she cannot walk. The Court heard from the Prosecution that the defendant started to abuse the victim in 2015.

After the community had held a devotion at the complainant’s house, Andrew began to feel sexually attracted to the victim who was sitting in her wheelchair outside the house. The defendant started to touch her.

On three other occasions in 2015 he pushed the victim off her wheelchair and had sexual intercourse with her. The defendant also groped her when he saw her alone.

On 28 August 2018, the victim’s parents took her to their neighbour’s house as they did not want to leave her at home alone while they went to their garden. When her father returned home, he found Mr Andrew in the bush kitchen, behaving indecently with his daughter who was sitting in her wheelchair.

Two days later, Andrew was arrested and interviewed. He made full admissions.

Delivering the sentence on September 21 2020, the Supreme Court considered there were no mitigating aspects to the offending, only aggravating factors listed as follows:

1) The victim has a severe disability in that she can neither walk nor talk. She has used a wheelchair her whole life. There is an age differential of 31 years between her and the offender. She is vulnerable young woman who could not defend herself or report the behaviour.

2) The offender is an elder in the Lumbukuti Presbyterian Church on Tongoa so he is a person of some authority in the community.

3) The force used – The defendant pushed the victim off her wheelchair and carried out the rape involving penile penetration on three separate occasions.

4) The offending was repeated.

5) The sexual offending was premeditated – the offending occurred when the victim was alone at home, and on one occasion the man removed the victim from where her father had left her to be looked after at their neighbour’s house and pushed her in her wheelchair to the bush kitchen to conduct his offending.

6) The harm suffered by the victim – Mr Andrew exposed the victim to the risk of sexually transmitted infection and pregnancy.

7) The offending occurred at the victim’s house where she was entitled to feel and to be secure and safe.

The offender is a married man with nine children who reside on Tongoa with his wife while he worked in a construction company in Port Vila. He entered a custom reconciliation with the victim’s family.

Taking all those matters into account, Justice Viran Molisa Trief ruled that the end sentences imposed on the four charges concurrently are:

a. Sexual intercourse without consent: 7 years 1-month imprisonment

b. Sexual intercourse without consent: 5 years imprisonment; and

c. Acts of indecency: 12 months’ imprisonment.

The sentence was backdated to commence from the 10th of August 2020 to consider the 42 days that Mr Andrew had spent in custody after his arrest.