Nae Williams, 26, was found guilty of an alleged offence that took place in the early hours of Sunday, October 2, 2016 in Avarua.
The court heard the offender offered the victim a ride home after discovering she had been left without transport following a night out clubbing with friends in Avarua.
Williams led the victim to a dark alley where the assault allegedly took place.
In her final submission, Crown counsel Talissa Koteka said the offence had made a great detrimental effect on the victim.
She said the victim had suffered from stress and anxiety, struggled to maintain regular duties at work and had experienced nightmares and feelings of being unsafe.
Koteka asked the court to hold the offender accountable for the harm he had done to the victim.
She submitted that the fact the offender had led the victim down a dark driveway in order to get her alone so that there would be no witnesses to the offence, should be considered aggravating.
“The offence in this case is also of sex nature and involves struggle and resistance from the victim,” Koteka said in her submission.
“The victim was vulnerable being alone at night and these kinds of assault impact on the sense of security and safety of all women in Rarotonga. Women are entitled to feel safe and should be able to walk home without the risk of unsolicited sexual advances and physical attacks.
“Finally, the offender abused the trust that was put on him by the victim. He offered her a ride home and used it as an opportunity to assault her.”
Koteka said whilst the Crown accepted that the actual violence involved in this case was towards the lower end of the scale, the sexual nature of the conduct made it serious.
In mitigation, she said it was the offender’s first appearance in court, but added assaults on a female were “very serious charges”.
“The Crown acknowledges the injury on the victim were minor but the sexual nature of the offence makes it more serious and this case should not be treated lightly.”
Koteka asked for a penalty of 12 months’ supervised probation with three months of community work with conditions as per the offender’s probation report.
She also asked the court for assurance that the offender would not interfere with or contact the victim and that he would not to leave the country without prior approval from the High Court.
“The Crown also seeks $20 to cover medical report and $50 for cost of court fees,” Koteka said.
Defence lawyer Norman George said the case was unusual, involving a person who had never been in court before and was appearing for sentencing for a first offence.
He thanked the Crown counsel for the “reasonable submission” and pointed out the fact that there were minor injuries involved.
“It was kind of a mild situation,” George said.
He then raised some concerns about the way the case had been reported in the media.
George said the use of the phrase “knight in armour” in his earlier submission had been taken out of context in media reports about the case and on Facebook.
He said the phrase was used to describe “the act of a gentleman offering a lady a ride home at that hour of the morning in good faith,” and had been used to describe the situation before the incident had allegedly taken place.
“This young man has lived an impeccable life. This whole incident could have been much more serious if he was a man of criminal intentions to harm the girl,” George said.
“If he had serious sexual intentions, something worse, the circumstances were there, the darkness, but he didn’t.”
He said as evidence in the trial suggested, his client was simply trying to “have a go” to see how far he would get, and was rejected.
“And when he was rejected, he accepted it without any further … there was a little tussle. It could have been lot worse than what actually happened.
“We extend our profound apologies to the young lady, assuring this court there will be no contact (from the offender) whatsoever.”
Justice of the Peace Carmen Temata said such offences under the 1969 Crime Acts carried a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.
“The victim was on a social outing with friends visiting several night clubs in Avarua and was walking home alone early hours of the morning when you approached her and offered to take her home,” Justice Temata said.
“However you had other ideas. Instead of taking her home straight away, you thought you might try your luck with her and pulled her down at a dark alley which led to the assault. And when you realised the victim was not interested to advance your intentions, you took her home, where her cousin notified the police.”
She told the court the victim claimed that she had to deal with feelings of low esteem, shame and guilt, following the incident.
“The victim claims before the assault, she was a trusting, resilient and optimistic person. She lived a full and active life, engaging in social life and her reflection of the world is that it’s a safe and happy place.
“However since the assault, she felt a multitude of emotions, being terribly afraid, depressed and anxious and (she) feels shocked and emotionally numb at times.
“She has also experienced panic attacks and was recently seen by a psychologist.”
Justice Temata took into account submissions from the Crown and defence counsel as well as the probation service report, before passing sentence.
“You are convicted and placed on 12 months’ probation supervision and three months’ community service with the conditions that you are not to purchase or consume alcohol, and non-prescription drugs, not to enter any liquor license premises except in the course of your employment, you are not to interfere or contact the victim and you are to attend any workshop and programmes as directed by the Probation Service,” Justice Temata said.
“You are not to leave the Cook Islands without the permission of the High Court and you are to also pay $20 reparation cost for the medical report, and $50 court fees.”