A 34-year-old man has received an imprisonment sentence of five years and four months after the Supreme Court found him guilty of sexually assaulting his 12-year-old stepdaughter.

The man lives in Port Vila with his partner and five children.

On April 12, 2018, the stepdaughter lodged a complaint against her stepfather, claiming he was sexually assaulting her.

Chief Justice (CJ) Vincent Lunabek said the offence dated back in December 25, 2017 when the family was celebrating Christmas and the stepfather and the mother were drinking alcoholic drinks.

He said the stepfather got drunk and advised the children to go to bed, but later he followed his stepdaughter to her room and touched her intimately.

He said after that occasion, the stepfather continued to do this on his days off and when her mother was at work.

The stepfather agreed that every night during his days off, he would enter the victim’s bedroom when she was asleep and touched her indecently but she pushed his hands away.

Chief Justice Lunabek said the victim wanted to scream for help but her stepfather blocked her mouth with his hands.

On April 10, 2018, the victim was sleeping when the stepfather entered the room and started touching her but he was caught by the girl’s aunt.

It was then that everything related to the offence came to light.

CJ Lunabek said the offence of aggravated sexual intercourse with a child attracts a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, while an Act of Indecency with a young person carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment.

He said these are serious offences as reflected by the respective maximum penalties.

The Chief Justice said the offence is aggravated by the repetition of the offence, a massive breach of trust within the family and the girl is not safe when the stepfather is around.

He said the offence extended over a certain period and there is an age disparity between the perpetrator and the victim.

In mitigation, the man who is living in a de-facto relationship with his partner and was looking after five children, pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity.

The Chief Justice said the man expressed remorse for his actions and cooperated with the police.

He gave 24 months to reflect most of the mitigating features, apart from the guilty plea taking the sentence to eight months.

CJ Lunabek then considered the one third reduction for the guilty plea, taking the end sentence to five years and four months imprisonment.