Sex Offenders Registry better late than never

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

It has taken a while but alas it is finally happening. Better late than never.

Today, we believe the Government, Police, Office of the Attorney General, Australia Federal Police and everybody else who played a role in setting up Samoa’s Sex Offender’s Registry must be commended.

Justice Vui Clarence Nelson deserves a special mention for championing the cause. Having made the initial call several years ago out of concerns for the number of repeated sex offenders who found it so easy to re-offend, Justice Vui did not give up. When at times it appeared that nothing was going to happen, the Supreme Court Justice did not give up. Instead, he would continue to advocate and push for the registry.

Today, that insistence and perseverance has paid off with the Samoa Sex Offenders Registry finally becoming a reality after it was launched on Thursday.

Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil, hailed the development as a step forward in efforts to protect our women and girls from sex predators.

So what does the Registry do? 

“The purpose of this legislation is to also mandate them (sexual offenders) to provide their personal details, prevent registered sex offenders from working in child related facilities and to facilitate the monitoring compliance that this Act,” Commissioner Fuiava explained.

“Though basic, this newly created database has all the necessary function to capture and maintain permanent information on every sex offender in Samoa.

“The computerised database to name a few, lists offender’s name, contact, numbers, address, nicknames, affiliation, photographs, fingerprints, tattoos, body scars and so on. This is to protect the women and children of Samoa.”

In launching the Sex Offenders Registry, Samoa becomes the first country in the Pacific to take that bold step. Inspector Efo Mualele Tuua will lead a team that will collect all information and ensure coordination with the Office of the Attorney General and the Court Registrar. The Registrar at the Court will notify the registry when an individual is convicted of a sex crime. 

“We will then work at getting the individual’s information and enter them and put it all in the system and we have to tell this individual that there are certain criteria they have to follow.”

At the launch, Commissioner Fuiavailili appealed for support from the community, church, village leaders and government agencies. Today, we join the Police and the law enforcement bodies in calling for support to make this registry work.

The launch of the Sex Offenders Registry is a deterrence measure, which certainly sends out the message that there is no place in this country for sex predators. 

We repeat, this is something that should have been established a long, long time ago. We say this because over the years we’ve become extremely concerned about serial sex offenders and sexual predators roaming the streets– including sex offenders sent back to Samoa from abroad.  

The problem is a lot more than that of course. We’ve also had international sex offenders and pedophiles who arrive as so-called investors, setting up businesses and mixing with our people. They end up going about their business completely undetected. It’s scary but that has been our reality. How many girls, boys and young women have become their victims, we don’t know?

But now at long last, we are getting somewhere. 

Many years ago, the man who made the initial call for Samoa to establish a Sex Offenders Register was Justice Vui. As we look to the future, we believe it is worth revisiting what led to the call. Justice Vui had apparently become increasingly concerned about the number of cases where repeated sex offenders had surfaced. The last straw was when he jailed a father found guilty of 13 counts of rape against his biological daughter. The Court heard that the man was previously convicted and imprisoned in New Zealand in 2009 for indecently assaulting a female between the age of 12 and 16 years.  After he was sent back to Samoa, the Court was told that the defendant treated his daughter like his wife.  He imprisoned her in her own home and his behavior was rightly described by Justice Vui as “sick.”

 “I find it astounding how a convicted sex offender deported from an overseas jurisdiction because of his offending, considered dangerous enough to warrant being accompanied to Samoa not by one but two police officers, can then be permitted to live freely and anonymously in our community with no restriction whatsoever,” Justice Vui said at the time. 

“With nothing in place to prevent possible reoffending, this case once again highlights the need for a Sex Offenders Register for registration of serious sex offenders.  So that such offenders can be supervised and monitored post-release from prison. 

 “Irrespective of whether they are convicted and imprisoned in Samoa or elsewhere.  It seems to be a normal practice now that sex offenders convicted in overseas jurisdictions are returned to Samoa upon the expiry of their sentences.  

 “Then (they) are released back into an unsuspecting community which is blissfully ignorant of the criminal past of these people who walk and live among them.  This is the proverbial insertion of the wolf into the sheep’s den.”

We’ve said this before and we will say it again. We acknowledge that protecting the human rights of an offender is obviously an important consideration.  But we believe that the rights of an offender should become subservient to the rights of unsuspecting ordinary citizens. Don’t get us wrong, the Register will not solve all our problems right away. But this is certainly a step in the right direction. 

We have had enough of seeing our young girls being destroyed by these ruthless animals. We pray that the Registry achieves what it sets out do and we hope that it would spare innocent girls and women the anguish of becoming victims of sex crimes.

Have a safe weekend Samoa, God bless! 

© Samoa Observer 2016

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