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Editor found guilty of indecent assault

Wednesday 3 June 2015 | Published in Regional


APIA – The District Court in Apia, Samoa, has proved “beyond reasonable doubt” five charges made against the editor of the government newspaper, Savali.

Two of the charges against Tupuola Terry Tavita,were of indecent assault, one was of threatening words, and two were of assault.

Judge Vaepule Vaemoa Va’ai ordered that Tavita be released on bail to await a probationary report, and he has reserved sentencing to June 26.

He said: “In consequence, I am satisfied that the prosecution has proven to the required standards of proof all elements of the charges of indecent assault.

“Given this conclusion, it follows that the alternative charges of common assault are equally proven.”

The complainant, Malia Livisitone, was a journalism student at the National University of Samoa, who was attached to the Savali Newspaper, when the incidents occurred.

The offences took place over three days in December 2014.

They occurred when Livisitone accompanied the defendant on a number of occasions to take photographs for news items, to be published in the Savali newspaper.

On the first occasion, she said she accompanied the defendant on a visit to a Green Power solar project at Faleolo. On their way to Faleolo, they drove through Aleisa and returned on the same route. They were seated in the front seat of the office pickup with her on the right, and Tavita on the left driving.

She said it was during that trip that the defendant tried to talk her into having sex with him.

In his evidence however, the defendant told the court he talked about the job and he was only making jokes to which they both laughed.

On the second trip, they went to Aufaga to cover the bestowal of a title to boxer, Joseph Parker.

Livisitone told the court once again the defendant tried to talk her into having sex with him. This was again denied by Tavita.

During the course of the trial, it was revealed that the defendant had apologised to the plaintiff through an ifoga, the cultural way in which remorse is expressed in seeking forgiveness.

In his ruling, Justice Va’ai acknowledged that the ifoga played a vital part in the decision he made in the case.

He said what made it possible for him to determine whose version of what actually happened was the truth, was the unrebutted evidence of the ifoga, which was carried out after the alleged offending had taken place.

He said: “As I see it, this evidence is in the nature of corroborative evidence because the inference I draw from it is that, it tends to confirm the truthfulness of what the complainant said the defendant did to her.”

He added: “First, it is independent evidence of an apology actually made by the defendant’s family. Second, it supports the inference that the defendant did wrong to another.

“Third, the wrong that defendant did was to the complainant whose family received the ifoga.”