Supreme Court sentences man for attack designed to ‘unleash hate and pure harm’

A man has been convicted in the Supreme Court of serious indecent assault and online abuse.

‘Ofa ‘Alifelei, 32,  appeared before Lord Chief Justice Whitten  for sentencing on one count of serious indecent assault contrary to ss 124(3) of the Criminal Offences Act; and a second charge of using a service to abuse and cause harm by posting an electronic communication contrary to Section 4 of the Electronic Communication Abuse Offences Act 2020.

On July 1, 2022, ‘Alifeleti asked the woman he assaulted out for drinks with a friend Sioeli. The woman is a 24-year-old female from Pangaimotu, Vava’u.  They were joined by another person.

During the evening the accused intercepted a phone call from a man on the woman’s mobile. That night he punched her, struck her with a stick and tried to hit her on the head with a piece of timber.

He later photographed her naked and performed sexual acts on her.

The Defendant then took the Complainant into his house and left her inside his room. He threatened that if she escaped, he would find her and shoot her with his gun.

After he left, the woman was able to call her aunt who alerted the police. ‘Alifelei  was arrested and the woman was taken to hospital.  She sustained swelling over her scalp, a bruise to her right eye, and a fracture to her left forearm.

‘Alifelei was originally charged with, and pleaded not guilty to, [1] causing serious bodily harm; [2] serious indecent assault; [3] using a service to abuse and cause harm by posting an electronic communication; and [4] unlawful imprisonment. 

At the beginning of his trial in Vava’u on March 13, the Defendant was rearraigned, whereupon he pleaded guilty to counts two and three and not guilty to counts one and four. The Crown accepted the guilty pleas in discharge of the indictment. 

Lord Chief Justice Whitten described the indecent assaults as “not committed to fulfil a sexual desire, but instead to unleash hate, and pure harm to the victim.”

He said the assaults “highly demoralised the victim and her family.”

He described them as the product of” intoxicated, emotional immaturity.”

The court was told that ‘Alifelei  was educated to Form 4, but was uninterested in school.  His siblings had all moved away and he lived in the family home alone.  He earned money by selling crops and kava grown on his plantation.

The Leimatu’a Town Officer described the Defendant as an introverted loner who, much like the other men in his family, did not take part in community activities or attend faikava gatherings where he could socialise with people his age.  

‘Alifelei told his probation officer that the victim was his de-facto partner.  She and her two young children from her previous marriage moved in and lived with the Defendant in his home. Since last year, the two had been inseparable. However, he believed the woman was also having an affair with a man from her neighbour’s family.

In September last year ‘Alifelei and the woman he assaulted signed an agreement whereby he paid her TP$1000 in exchange for her dropping the charges. However, the Magistrate refused the application to cancel the charges because the woman’s family did not agree.

‘Alifelei has no previous convictions.

Lord Chief Justice Whitten sentenced ‘Alifelei to a total of two and-a-half years in prison. The final 12 months of the sentence is to be suspended for a period of two years from the date of the Defendant’s release.

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