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Rape Stats Shock Senior Prosecutor

Rape Stats Shock Senior Prosecutor
Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Dato’ Shymala Alagendra. Photo: Fonua Talei
September 09
15:00 2018

Screen Shot 2018-09-09 at 3.00.16 PMFiji is facing a rape epidemic of its children, says newly-appointed Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Dato’ Shymala Alagendra.

While speaking at the Fiji Law Society Annual Convention yesterday Ms Alagendra said the statistics showed that numbers were increasing and victims are getting younger.

Ms Alagendra was appointed earlier this year.

“The question is, what are we going to do about this as a profession?” Ms Alagendra told the legal fraternity at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa in Natadola.

After almost 20 years of war crimes work and prosecuting, defending and representing victims of human rights violation, Ms Alagendra said she boarded the flight to Fiji and was not expecting to find shocking statistics of child rape.

“I knew about the beautiful scenes and the beaches, resorts, the holiday destinations and I have friends who have Fiji as the location for their wedding, people were excited saying now they had a reason to come to Fiji because I am here,” she told participants.

“What I did not expect to find in Fiji was this, this is the statistics of child rape in Fiji.”

Ms Alagendra shared she has worked with a lot of child victims and said primary victimisation takes place when the crime is committed.

“Secondary victimisation, which is the most lasting victimisation, takes place when the child goes through the criminal process,” she said.

“As professionals whether you are the Police, whether you are a prosecutor, defence or judge we need to know that so that we talk to ourselves about how we are going to conduct ourselves when we have these kinds of cases.”

She said child rape cases needed to go through the system quickly.

“We need the child to come out not being retraumatised and we need to ensure that he or she is going to get the support and care afterwards.”

She urged lawyers to put their robes down and think about what they could do at community level within their communities in order to address the issue.

Ms Alagendra urged lawyers to also consider the manner in which they defend cases of similar nature.

“Sometimes if you do your work and you come to court you can actually let this child go out of the court room unharmed,” she said.

While giving advice to lawyers Ms Alagendra said mounting a robust defence and putting the welfare of the child victim at the front of their defence was possible after having witnessed it herself during a local rape trial which she prosecuted with defence lawyer Filimoni Vosarogo.

“When you make frivolous defences how are you going to prove it? You are going to prove it through that child,” she said.

“For us we are very busy people. Each case is a file. We lose sight of the fact that actually these are human beings here.”

“I am not asking you to compromise the rights of your client or not give their right to representation but, there is such a thing that is called fairness and reasonableness and that you can always mount your defences in the most respectful way all around the courtroom.”

Ms Alagendra said higher sentences should be encouraged as punishment given that the offence attracted a term of life imprisonment.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

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