Tongatapu rapist fails to appeal conviction

A man attempting to overturn his conviction for rape and assault has failed to convince the Court of Appeal that a trial judge wrongly influenced the jury.

Siotame Hafoka was convicted of rape, and two counts of indecent assault, at the Nuku’alofa Supreme Court in 2022,

Hafoka appealed on the basis that the sexual activity did occur but was consensual.

The court was told that the complainant wished to arrange a loan. Her parents suggested she approach Hafoka. She did so, with prepared documentation.

At his workplace, Hafoka locked the door, and forced her to the back of the shop, where he licked her vagina and raped her.

She escaped on a pretext and went straight to the Central Police Station. She was then too distressed to give a statement but was examined at the hospital.

Her first statement was taken the next day, 3 March 2022.

Hafoka then handed himself in to the police. He gave a comprehensive account, claiming the encounter was consensual.

He subsequently offered the complainant money by way of apology and requested she drop the charges. She at once reported this to the police.

Hafoka’s interview was followed by his being charged with rape and indecent assault.

The charge sheet is in Tongan, with a caution in Tongan and English. It was attached to the record of interview, in which Hafoka said that the sexual activity was consensual.

On the charge sheet, following the caution, he wrote “Io Mo’oni”. The prosecution contended that was an acknowledgment of the truth of the charges.

The defence position was that he was acknowledging the truth of the record of interview in which he denied lack of consent.

In their decision, the Appeal Judges said:  

“It remained for the jury to determine the verdict.

The grounds of appeal are not established and we do not perceive any material risk of a miscarriage of justice. The appeal is dismissed”. .

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