PROGRAMA MONITORIZASAUN BA SISTEMA JUDISIÁRIU
Suai District Court
04 March 2016
Suai Court imposes a nine-year prison sentence on defendant in case of sexual abuse of a minor
On 26 February 2016 the Suai District Court, via the mobile court in Ainaro District, sentenced the defendant CT to nine years in prison and ordered him to pay compensation of US$500.00 to the victim. The Court found the defendant guilty of committing sexual abuse of a minor aged 12. The Court also ordered the defendant to pay court costs of US$35.00
The public prosecutor charged the defendant with violating Article 177(1) of the Penal Code for sexually abusing a minor, which carries a penalty of 5 – 20 years in prison.
The Court found that on 28 February 2015, the victim was home alone when the defendant opened the door and entered the house. The defendant grabbed the victim by the hand and said he wanted to have sexual intercourse with her. The victim refused and tried to scream, but the defendant forcefully covered her mouth. The defendant then carried the victim to the bed, removed her clothes and raped her.
During the trial the defendant denied all of the alleged facts and testified that he only grabbed the victim’s chest. However, based on the victim’s testimony, a witness testimony and a medical report from PRADET the Court found the defendant guilty of sexual abuse of a minor.
In his final recommendations, the public prosecutor asked the court to sentence the defendant to 18 years in prison and to pay compensation of US$500.00 to the victim. The public defender asked the court to acquit the defendant because the victim did not scream or do anything to resist the defendant’s advances.
JSMP appreciates all courts in Timor-Leste for imposing prison sentences in cases of sexual violence and ordering perpetrators to pay compensation to victims to redress their suffering. However, JSMP believes that the decision in this case does not reflect the gravity of the defendant’s actions. Sexual abuse of minors has a very serious negative effect on young victims’ lives, and can impact their psychological and physical development for a number of years. Often the victim will experience trauma for his/her entire life.
“JSMP encourages the courts to exercise all legal options in accordance with the Penal Code to punish defendants in cases of sexual abuse against minors and impose severe penalties to prevent others from committing the same acts in the future,” said the Executive Director of JSMP, Luis de Oliveira Sampaio.
JSMP has observed that, recently, there has been some progress in decisions imposed in cases involving the sexual abuse of minors. However, decisions are still not consistent. JSMP believes that each case has its own characteristics and judges have the authority and discretion to make a decision in each case. However, to show their commitment and also to comply with the State’s obligation to combat all forms of violence against children, JSMP encourages the courts to ensure consistency in the decisions they hand down in cases of sexual abuse against minors.
In cases like this one, the Public Prosecution Service should also consider charging defendants under Article 185 of the Penal Code for unlawful entry. This would result in heavier sentences against defendants. However, the Public Prosecution Service has failed to identify these legal options, which has also impacted on the adequacy of sentences in these cases.
JSMP is also concerned that in his final recommendation, the public defender asked the Court to acquit the defendant because the victim did not scream and did not do anything to resist the defendant. It appears that the public defender wanted the court to consider the victim’s lack of physical resistance or shouting out as evidence that the victim consented to the sexual intercourse. However, the victim tried to shout out but was stopped by the Defendant and, in any event, consent is not relevant to Article 177(1), which only requires evidence of sexual intercourse with a minor less than 14 years of age. In addition, there are a range of reasons why a victim may not actively resist unwanted sexual advances, including fear. As a result, this line of reasoning should never be introduced or allowed in cases that involve sexual violence.
This case was registered with the court as Case No. 283/Pen/2015/TDS. The hearing to announce the decision was presided over by judge Costáncio Barros Basmery, representing a panel of judges. The Public Prosecution Service was represented by Matias Soares and the defendant was represented by Public Defender Manuel Amaral.