Vanuatu Strengthens Penal Code Particularly For Sexual Offenses

Amendments to create significant deterrent, life in prison for sexual intercourse with a child 

By Thompson Marango

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, February 25, 2017) – The increase of the maximum penalty for unlawful sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 13 years old from 14 years jail term to life imprisonment is now effective as of yesterday afternoon after the gazetting of the amendment of the Penal Code Act [CAP 135].

Ten amendments all increasing penalties for sex related and assault offences, as per a 2016 Council of Ministers’ decision, targets the strengthening of the purpose of the Penal Code in providing deterrence, aiming towards individual deterrence of specific offender.
 
State Law Office gazetted the amendments yesterday afternoon after Minister of Justice and Community Services, Ronald Warsal, issued an instruction to proceed yesterday morning.
 
The amendments include the increase for the offence of abduction under any age from 10 to not exceeding 12 years imprisonment in Penal Code Act [CAP 135] section 92.

A new section was also inserted in Section 92 to deal with the abduction of girls under the age of 18 years and provides for a maximum penalty of 7 years.

The gazetted third item amends subsection 95 (2) of the Act by increasing the penalty for the offence of incest being sexual intercourse between parents and child under paragraph 95 (1)(a), (b) or (c), and subsection 95 (2) from 10 years to a term not exceeding 15 years imprisonment.

Six additional subsections (4), (5), (6), (7), (8) and (9) were added to subsection 95 (3).

“Subsection (4) provides for a person not to commit incest consensually with a person over 16 years old and subsection (5) provides for the penalty of 15 years imprisonment if that offense is committed.

“Subsection (6) provides that a person must not commit incest without consent with a person over 16 years old and subsection (7) provides the penalty of 20 years imprisonment if that offence is committed.

“Subsection (8) provides that a person must not commit incest with a person over 16 years and subsection (9) provides the penalty of life imprisonment if that offence is committed.”

The penalty of sexual intercourse with any child under the age of 13 in subsection 97(1) of the Act has the largest increase from 14 years to life imprisonment.

Subsection 97 (2) of the Act was also amended increasing the penalty for sexual intercourse with any child under the age of 15 years or over from 5 to 15 years imprisonment.

The penalty for intentional assault on the body of another person if no physical damage is caused in paragraph 107 (a) was also amended from 3 months to 1 year imprisonment.

Paragraph 107 (b) for intentional assault on the body of another person if damage of a temporary nature is caused was amended from 1 year imprisonment to 5 years imprisonment.

The penalty for intentional assault on the body of another person if damage of a permanent nature is caused in paragraph 107 © is also amended from 5 years to 10 years imprisonment.

Lastly item 10 of the gazette amends paragraph 107(d) increasing the penalty for intentional assault on the body of another person if damages caused resulted in death although there was no intention to cause such death from 10 to 14 years imprisonment.

During the signing of the instruction to the State Law Office, Minister Warsal noted that the urgency of the amendment of the Code is recommended to reflect the Government commitment in combating the rise in morality crime as well as the development of Vanuatu’s criminal law penalties benchmark on sexual related offense and assault to come to par with regional and commonwealth standards.

According to Warsal, consultations were duly carried out with stakeholder and specific consideration was given to recommendation provided in cases in which court has highlight the fact that the current penalties need to be reviewed and amended to assist the Courts in applying appropriate and fair penalties according to the seriousness of offences committed.

The Justice Minister also added that the application of maximum penalties provided by the Code has been dramatically reduced by the sentencing guideline and has contributed to the Court arriving to minimum sentence which foreseeably lenient as compared to the seriousness nature of the offence, taking into consideration the aftermath effects to the victim.

“Firstly, on the role of the Government in elevating the penalties to create a flood gate, combating the rise of all sexual related offence (morality crime) and intentional assault,” he stated.

“Secondly, the amendment affirms the Legislature’s duty in assisting the Judiciary (courts) in assuring that justice is served through imposing of a fair and appropriate sentences according to the elements of offences.”

Vanuatu Daily Post
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