Crime & Court

‘Sold For Sex’ Trial: “Complainant Used As a Product, Opportunity To Make Money”

The State prosecutor yesterday told the High Court that the complainant was seen as a ‘product by the accused who saw it as an opportunity to make money.’ These were
05 Dec 2019 09:24
‘Sold For Sex’ Trial: “Complainant Used As a Product, Opportunity To Make Money”
Josevata Werelagi outside the High Court in Suva on December 4, 2019. Photo: Ashna Kumar

The State prosecutor yesterday told the High Court that the complainant was seen as a ‘product by the accused who saw it as an opportunity to make money.’

These were the words of Shirley Tivao from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions during the closing submission in the trial of Josevata Werelagi.

The 35-year-old accused, who is also known as Josie, is accused of allegedly taking a teenager and forcing her into sex work. He is facing three counts of domestic trafficking in children and one count of aggravated sexual servitude.

He appeared before Judge Justice Daniel Goundar yesterday.

The charges:

It is alleged that between July 18, 2015, and July 22, 2015, Werelagi in Suva, by the use of threats or force caused a 15-year-old girl to enter into or remain in sexual servitude.

It is alleged that between July 18, 2015, and July 22, 2015, in Nausori, Werelagi facilitated the transportation of a 15-year-old girl from Nausori town to Rewa Street and in facilitating the said transport, with intent that the girl will be used to provide sexual services.

The prosecution is represented by Lavenia Bogitini and Shirley Tivao from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions while Werelagi is represented by Talei Kean and Salote Nasedra from the Legal Aid Commission.

Closing submission by prosecution:

Ms Tivao told the court that the prosecution had the burden to prove the guilt of the accused, as the accused was presumed innocent until proven guilty.

She told the court that the complainant was 15 years old at the time of the alleged offence and was trying to find a better life when she became the target of perpetrators like Werelagi.

She told the court that Werelagi allegedly facilitated the transportation of the complainant from Nausori to Samabula with the intention that she would provide sexual services.

Ms Tivao also told the court that the complainant listened to Werelagi’s instructions because she was afraid and wanted money.

She also told the court that on July 18, 2015, it was the first time the complainant was sold for sex by Josie.

She highlighted to the court that between July 18 and July 22, 2015, allegedly providing sexual services was the life of the complainant because she was afraid of the accused because he had threatened her.

She told the court that the complainant was young and that she feared returning back home because she thought she would be beaten up by her family.

Ms Tivao also told the court that if she could think of one word to describe the complainant’s evidence, it would be honest.

She told the court that Werelagi’s evidence was unreliable because, she told the court that the poor 15-year-old was taken advantage of by Werelagi.

Closing submission by defence:

Ms Nasedra, in her closing submission, told the court that Werelagi never threatened or forced the complainant.

She told the court that it was confirmed by the complainant that she could have said no to Werelagi and go home, however, she chose to go with him.

She also told the court that the complainant had every opportunity to leave and reject what Werelagi told her, but she did not do so.

Ms Nasedra also told the court that the defence submitted that the complainant was lying.

She also told the court that Werelagi had denied all allegations against him from the day of his caution interview till now.

Ms Nasedra told the court that Werelagi had told the court that he offered help to her because he felt sorry for her and he was only trying to be a good Samaritan.

She told the court that the reason why the case was before the court was because the complainant was caught by the Police and that she had lied to the Police.

The matter has been adjourned for summing up and assessors would give their verdict today (Thursday) at 10.30am.

Werelagi is further remanded in custody.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: ashna.kumar@fijisun.com.fj



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