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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Jan. 20) – Rape is a horrendous crime and the courts must emphasise the seriousness of it through the sentences they impose, said Papua New Guinea National Court judge Justice David Cannings yesterday.

He said this when jailing Madang Governor James Yali for 12 years for raping the sister of his de facto wife.

Justice Cannings described the rape as serious and did not suspend any part of the sentence. He said to suspend the sentence would be to diminish the gravity of the crime.

"I will send the wrong signal if I suspend any part of the sentence," Justice Cannings said.

He said rape was a pressing social issue in this country and must be addressed, both from the victims’ and perpetrators’ point of view.

"It must be visited with severe punishment to reflect the community's condemnation of it."

He said people were fed up with rape, especially our females as well as the population of PNG.

After the decision, Yali spent an emotional moment with his children and family members before being driven away to Beon prison.

When determining the sentence, Justice Cannings found that there were 11 aggravating factors compared to four mitigating factors. The aggravating factors against Yali were; the big age gap between the offender and victim, the young age of the victim [17], abuse of trust and dependency, victim not raped by a stranger, high degree of sexual indignity, high degree of adverse emotional impact, trouble caused by offender since incident, forcing a trial, no remorse, not a first offender and offence being committed while a Member of Parliament The mitigating factors were that there was only one offender, no weapon used, no torture or grievous bodily harm and the effect of jail term on the offender’s family.

Justice Cannings pointed out that a month before committing the rape, Yali was convicted of unlawful assault and given a 12-month suspended sentence and placed on a good behaviour bond. Justice Cannings described the breach of his good behaviour bond as a "serious aggravating circumstance that cannot be ignored."

He said the offender’s status as a Member of Parliament and as the Governor was something that aggravated the offence.

"He raped a young woman in the governor’s office and he did that on a night when he was hosting other governors at a governors’ conference. He has brought shame to not only himself and his family but to all the people of his province."

Yali committed the offence in October, 2004 at his office at the Madang Provincial Government building.

January 20, 2006

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