The Supreme Court has sentenced a Pastor to nine months imprisonment, after he was found guilty on one count of an act of indecency with a young person.

The offence has 10 years imprisonment as its maximum penalty.

Justice Daniel Fatiaki said it is a serious offence although he accepted that like many other offences, it is capable of being committed in different ways and with varying degrees of seriousness.

He said a brief synopsis of the proven case is that on October 15, 2016 the pastor who is also a plumber, went to the victim’s house to repair a leaking sink.

While fixing the sink, the victim gave him a drink and a towel to wipe himself with.

The towel was given to the pastor in the laundry area.

The victim said the defendant indecently touched her after he received the towel.

Upon his conviction, a presentence report was filed.

According to the report, the pastor was born in 1973 on Tanna and is married with five children and a grandchild.

The report stated that he is a pastor of the Apostolic Vanuatu Church at Eratap, with a congregation of 60 members and also claimed to be a chief of about 80 people in the area.

Justice Fatiaki said that although the pastor only attended two years of formal education, he has skills in plumbing and was reported to be the sole breadwinner in his home.

“The defendant expressed remorse for his offending and accepts full responsibility for his actions,” he said.

“He has not sought to blame the victim in any way.

“There is an overwhelming need for the Court on behalf of the community to condemn in the strongest terms any who abuse young people in our community.

“Children must be protected. It is totally wrong for adults to take advantage of their immaturity. Men must learn that they cannot obtain sexual gratification at the expense of the weak and the vulnerable.

“Men who take advantage sexually of young people forfeit the right to remain in the community

“It will only be in a most extreme of cases that suspension could ever be contemplated in a case of sexual abuse”.

The Supreme Court judge said the case is also aggravated by the 30 plus years age difference between the pastor and the victim, and the fact that the offending occurred at the complainant’s house where she should be safe.

He said that there was an element of planning and certainly taking advantage of an innocent young girl’s kindness and naivety.

The victim’s father told the probation officer that his daughter is scared of people and finds it hard to trust anyone since the incident.

He also said that it was now too late for a customary reconciliation ceremony at the time as the matter was before the court.

Justice Fatiaki adopted a starting point of 12 months imprisonment.

He deducted three months for the defendant’s past good record, his remorse, and the 20 months delay in finalising the case.

“The end sentence is nine months imprisonment which is ordered to be served with immediate effect,” he ordered.