A man over 60 years old is facing 5 years in jail after being convicted of charges involving having sex with a minor below the age of 15.

Tom Kleopas pleaded guilty to one charge of attempted unlawful sexual intercourse under sections 28 and 97 (2) of the Penal Code Act. He was also charged with unlawful sexual intercourse under section 97 (2) of the Act. He pleaded not guilty, but was found guilty.

Kleopas confessed in the facts before the Supreme Court that he sexually abused the complainant on several occasions when she was only 13 years old in 2021.Those actions occurred in the garden when he sought permission from her grandfather to take her to collect food.

The attempted offendings occurred until 2022 when the victim turned 14 years old. The victim cried and told the defendant to stop, but he ignored her pleas. He gave her VT200 and told her not to tell anyone about it. He continued the sexual abuse until she became pregnant and had a miscarriage.

In December last year, the victim after 3 months of pregnancy visited Liro Health Centre due to loss of blood and was told she had a miscarriage.

In his pre-sentence report, the defendant accepted the facts and said he is sorry for his actions.

Unlawful sexual intercourse carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment, the same for attempting to have sexual intercourse with a child under 15 years but of or above the age of 13.

Acting Chief Justice (CJ), Oliver Abraham Saksak, considered that Kleopas took advantage of the victim’s grandfather’s disability to abuse the young victim at the garden.

“In my view this case is more serious than all the comparative cases submitted by the Prosecution,” he stated in the verdict on Tuesday this week.

After considering the aggravating factors, Judge Saksak gave the defendant a 5 years sentence starting point before increasing it by another 2 years, due to the aggravating factors.

Aggravating factors include repeated nature of offending over 2 years, loss of dignity, lack of protective measures resulting in teenage pregnancy and miscarriage causing pain and physical and mental stress on the victim, and the lasting memory she would live for the rest of her life.

The Acting CJ reduced Kleopas’ sentence by 1 year due to his guilty plea to the attempted charge. Due to personal circumstances such as being a good figure in the community and having no previous conviction, he was given another 1-year sentence reduction.

His sentence was backdated to April 29, 2023 when he was remanded.

He was given 14 days to appeal the sentence.

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SOURCE: VANUATU DAILY POST